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Do the U.S. and Mexico care about the Gold Cup anymore?

Gold Cup
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 By Tom Marshall

Ten Mexico Under-23s looking to make an impact in Olympic year

Chivas defender Raul Lopez continues to impress and will give <i>El Tri</i> an option down the wings in Rio.
Chivas defender Raul Lopez continues to impress and will give El Tri an option down the wings in Rio.

2016 is another highly significant year for Mexico and its improving youth national teams. For the latest generation of Under-23 players, everything builds up to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this August, when El Tri will defend the gold medal won at London 2012.

Already there is a group of players that have shown much promise and there is excitement over the team's chances, even if many of those that could wear Mexico's green shirt may well be quite a bit below the age barrier. With all that in mind, here is an early look ahead at the Olympic-eligible Mexican players to keep an eye on in 2016.

Jesus Corona -- Date Of Birth: 01-06-93 -- Position: Winger, Club: Porto

Mexico's next superstar? Corona has the natural ability to entertain, talent to spare and has applied himself well in his debut season at Porto. "Tecatito's" career trajectory -- Monterrey to Twente to Porto -- has been almost perfect to date, and by the time the Olympics swing round, a significant amount of El Tri's hopes will rest on the former Monterrey winger's shoulders.

Raul Lopez -- DOB: 02-23-93 -- Position: Right Back/Winger, Club: Chivas

The Chivas player gets up and down the wing, takes on defenders, is naturally strong and is already the best crosser of a ball in Liga MX. If Lopez, who was a winger for most of his youth career, can improve defensively, he has all the natural ability to become a top modern full-back. It will be interesting to see if Mexico Olympic coach Raul "Potro" Gutierrez opts to use Lopez in defense or further forward, where he has played most of his youth national team career.

Hirving Lozano -- DOB: 07-30-95 -- Position: Winger, Club: Pachuca

Already a headache for Liga MX defenses, Lozano is lightning quick and has excelled more than any of his teammates when playing in Mexico's youth teams.

Lozano needs to add more goals in general -- he has 13 in 68 Liga MX appearances -- but the winger is a sure bet to become a full Mexico international in the near future.

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Carlos Salcedo -- DOB: 09-29-93 -- Position: Center back, Club: Chivas

The U-23 team's captain, Salcedo has consolidated himself as a firm starter at Chivas, already has a handful of caps at full international level and could well be in Europe by the time the Olympics swing around.

A no-nonsense defender who relishes a physical challenge, Salcedo is also comfortable at the ball with his feet.

Erick Gutierrez -- DOB: 06-15-95 -- Position: Center midfield, Club: Pachuca

A cultured midfielder who is the star product from Pachuca' ever-improving youth system, Gutierrez is technically gifted, good off the ball and shares a few similarities with ex-Tuzos midfielder Hector Herrera. He's an important player in making Mexico's U-23s tick.

Orbelin Pineda -- DOB: 03-24-96 -- Position: Attacking midfield, Club: Chivas

Still young for the Olympic team, Pineda will be involved if he can continue his form following his move to Chivas from Queretaro this offseason. Pineda can slot in on either wing or in an attacking midfield role and plays with a maturity beyond his years.

Pineda is a creative talent who is shy off the field, but can mix it up physically on it.

Rodolfo Pizarro -- DOB: 02-15-94 -- Position: Right back/Central midfield, Club: Pachuca

Pizarro won his first Mexico cap back before the last World Cup and already has over 100 first team appearances under his belt for Pachuca at just 21. Pizarro oozes natural ability and can play in central midfield, on the wing, or even at left back (where he featured during Olympic qualifying), although his long-term future is probably as an attacking right back or wing-back.

If there is a criticism of Pizarro, he is still a bit lightweight, though that should improve naturally in coming years.

Erick Torres -- DOB: 01-19-93 -- Position: Striker, Club: Houston Dynamo

"Cubo" has struggled in 2015 after failing to start many games for Chivas in the first half of the year and then not impressing following his move to MLS franchise Houston Dynamo. In-between there was a story off the field that seemed to affect the 22-year-old's form on the pitch.

But despite the poor year, Torres remains a top striking prospect for Mexico and he'll be hoping the MLS offseason will have given him the mental break he needed to hit 2016 flying.

Jordan Silva -- DOB: 07-30-94 -- Position: Center back, Club: Toluca

Built in the same mold as El Tri veteran Francisco "Maza" Rodriguez, Silva has been given regular minutes under Toluca coach Jose Cardozo and is already comfortable playing in Liga MX. Silva's ability in the air and physicality help him stand out and he should form a good partnership with Salcedo at the Olympics.

Jesse Gonzalez -- DOB: 05-25-95 -- Position: Goalkeeper, Club: FC Dallas

Reports suggest that the U.S. national team has succeeded in persuading Gonzalez to join its January camp and that may put his place in Mexico's Olympic set-up under threat, which will disappoint coach Gutierrez.

Gonzalez was highly impressive in F.C. Dallas' run to the MLS semifinals and is on course to make Mexico's Olympic squad, should he stick with El Tri.

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.

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