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Mexico headlines Gold Cup's Group C on Thursday

Mexico faces a relative cakewalk in Group C action on its quest to reach the 2017 Confederations Cup. Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, and Cuba are left to fight it out for second.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

There is one last way for Mexico to reach Russia's Confederations Cup in 2017 and it begins tonight. To force a playoff with the United States for a Confederations' berth, Mexico has brought their A-squad to the 2015 Gold Cup and hopes to get on the right track tonight against Cuba at Chicago's Soldier Field. That match will follow the Group C opener, Trinidad and Tobago versus Guatemala.

Trinidad and Tobago are the likely second place finishers for Group C, leaning on 30-year old captain and striker Kenwyne Jones. The Trinidadians have reached beyond the group stage of the Gold Cup only twice, a semifinal berth in 2000 and a quarterfinal loss to Mexico in 2013. Trying to build off that success, Trinidad and Tobago must defeat Guatemala tonight or they could face a characteristic first round exit.

Guatemala rarely factor into the Gold Cup as true competitors. They have split the last four tournaments with two quarterfinal losses (2007, 2011) and two failures to qualify (2009, 2013). In their 2015 matches thus far, they've lost over half of them and been outscored 13-2, including a 4-0 loss in a Gold Cup warmup with United States last week. Tonight's match versus Trinidad and Tobago is equally important for them as a win all but ensures another quarterfinal round, unless Mexico is dealt a shocking blow.

In the ranking of Gold Cup teams, Cuba often appears at the bottom. The tiny island nation has fielded great players in the past (including the defected Seattle Sounder Osvaldo Alonso) but are typically the minnow that gets beaten up on in group play. They've reached the quarterfinals twice in Gold Cup history (2003, 2013) but routinely have a severely negative goal differential. Mexico will certainly be their toughest task of the group stage but a result against any of the teams in their group could flip expectations on their head.

Mexico come into the tournament with a clear desire to win the whole thing. Dealt a blow with Chicharito's broken collarbone just days before the start of the Gold Cup, El Tri have more than enough firepower behind to walk through the group stage relatively unscathed. But recent years have taught us that Mexico is prone to a game of errors and slipping in this group could be devastating. Mexico have won half of all Gold Cups but crashed out in 2013's semifinal stage to Panama in an ugly tournament for the Mexicans. Can they patch the gaps from recent years and earn a chance to be in Russia?

It all starts tonight at 6:00PM on Fox Sports 2 with Trinidad and Tobago vs. Guatemala. Mexico and Cuba will follow on Fox Sports 1 at 8:30PM.