Kick Off: Gold Cup glory or bust for rampant USMNT, while plucky Panama eye another upset

Gold Cup trophy, Kick Off

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USA Today sports

Here are the Top 15 soccer stories we’re following today. You can find television listings for all nine MLS matches this weekend here.

1) WHO WILL TAKE HOME GOLD CUP GLORY? PLUCKY PANAMA OR DOMINANT US?

If you ask the press, the US national team's got this. It's not quite that simple, though. The big question is who Jurgen Klinsmann will start on Sunday against Panama (4 pm ET, Fox, UniMas, Univision Deportes). He certainly hasn't been shy about shuffling his lineup and making the most of a deep roster.

2) GOLD CUP STANDOUTS ALREADY MAKING MOVES?

El Salvador's Rodolfo Zelaya seems to be the hottest commodity for the time being, but nobody is sure who is actually in poll position to pick him up. Meanwhile, Panama striker Gabriel Torres is rumored to be heading to Colorado as their first-ever Designated Player. Even the A-League is getting in on the action, with Wellington Phoenix signing Costa Rica forward Kenny Cunningham.

3) CHEPO SAFE? MAYBE NOT FOR LONG

It's the most anticipated termination in CONCACAF, but José Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre keeps hanging on for dear life despite Mexico's continued struggles. His reign could be nearing an end, though, as Mexican owners meet Monday to determine his fate. Former Chicago Fire star Cuauhtémoc Blanco, for one, is ready to see Chepo sent packing.

4) EGYPT BOSS BRADLEY MAKES THE ROUNDS ON US MEDIA CIRCUIT

Bob Bradley was never what you might call a media darling during his time at the head of the USMNT, but he's been thrust in the spotlight from day one of his tenure with Egypt. It's understandable, really, what with the turmoil surrounding the country for the past few years. Here's a media double dip for you from Thursday, when Bradley joined MLSsoccer.com's own ExtraTime Radio for a chat then made an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

5) DREAMS COME TRUE IN DC AS STADIUM PROPOSAL ANNOUNCED

Buzzards have been picking at the bones of dead D.C. stadium deals in the proverbial elephant graveyard for more than a decade. Now, Buzzard Point is likely to be the site of the stadium many thought might never happen. It's the culmination of months, years even, of hard work by United's ownership group, which made finding a new home the priority from Day 1.

6) STILL, HURDLES REMAIN BEFORE THE FIRST SHOVEL HITS THE DIRT

You didn't think it would be that easy, did you? D.C. United's stadium deal seems to have the support of key lawmakers, but that doesn't mean there aren't some questions still to be answered. Ben Olsen knows that more than most, having been a witness to countless failed attempts in the past, but United's boss said he's thrilled with the developments and "believes in the District."

7) ARE WE NEARING THE ERA OF MLS 3.0?

Could be. Stadiums are popping up. Fans are flocking to games. Manchester City are betting the house they can make New York City a two-team powerhouse. We're entering a crucial stage in the league's growth, says MLSsoccer.com's Jonah Freedman, and nobody's sure exactly what MLS 3.0 will mean a few years down the road.

8) TOTTI SAYS ALL-STAR GAME WON'T BE WALK IN THE PARK

Francesco Totti isn't underestimating the AT&T MLS All-Stars. Not with the kinds of names he'll see line up across from him on July 31. He'll play the likes of Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and Marco Di Vaio in a first-class stadium as well, the likes of which houses a franchise MLS Commissioner Don Garber says is an example for the league to follow.

9) MCINERNEY IN-DEPTH: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THE UNION STRIKER

Jack McInerney doesn't talk much, but when he does, you'd better listen carefully. The Philadelphia youngster didn't get any time on the field for the USMNT during the Gold Cup, but he got a taste of what it will take to make the jump to the next level. Take your understanding of McInerney to the next level with the latest from The Word, MLSsoccer.com's long-form series.

10) BOCANEGRA PUTS USMNT ON THE BACKBURNER WITH WORK TO DO AT CHIVAS

Don't get the wrong impression – Carlos Bocanegra is cheering just like everyone else from his couch at home. He's just not focused on his role, or lack thereof, for the time being. For now, it's all about Chivas USA and the sizeable challenge in front of the club. If his first match is any indication, they chose the right man to build around.

11) RONALDINHO ADDS MORE TO HIS LEGEND WITH LIBERTADORES WIN

It would have been nice to see some American boys lift the trophy with Club Tijuana, but Atlético Mineiro and their effervecent star did the honors. Ronaldinho, ever linked with MLS, arrived at the club in the midst of drama, but he's on top of South America again now.

12) TWO MORE CITIES ADDED TO EXPANDING NASL

Welcome to professional soccer, Jacksonville and Oklahoma City. Both cities will field NASL franchises when the Spring 2015 season begins, as the league's Board of Governors unanimously approved their bids. Seems the American soccer ladder is growing.

13) MANCHESTER CITY CHANNEL THEIR INNER KLINSMANN

It rained a lot in Hong Kong yesterday. Buckets. So what's a bored soccer player to do? Slip and slide, of course. Even better, how about Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany immitating the US boss' famous celebration?

14) HENRY'S EMPIRE STATE OF MIND AND CHARA'S INNER PICASSO

Thierry Henry told us he love New York City. Most probably didn't expect that love to go quite this far, though. That's not coming off, Titi. Meanwhile, the Timbers' Diego Chara is more focused on the creative side. He paints the canvas himself instead of becoming one.

15) MLS FUNNIES CAUGHT ON TAPE

Flailing referees. Failed throw ins. Jersey malfunctions. It's all here. Start your Friday off with a few laughs, as Bleacher Report spoon-feeds you five of MLS' funniest moments caught on tape.

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