Hunting for Gold: 5 players who cashed in on CONCACAF's biggest stage

USA TODAY Sports-Steven Bisig

CONCACAF's oft-maligned event has been a launching pad, and priceless payday, for several of its standouts over the years.

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For some, the CONCACAF Gold Cup seems like nothing more than a series of unusually competitive friendlies. But on an individual level, the tournament could mean much more to some.

While it may not have the international reputation of the UEFA European Championship or the Copa America, it provides an international stage for some players to shine, proving that they’re deserving of a new contract or a high-profile transfer.

This year, someone like the young Alphonso Davies – who is already getting looks from overseas – or the re-emergent Darren Mattocks may make their case for a bigger role on their team, a bigger paycheck or a more prestigious crest on their jersey.

Several players have used the Gold Cup for that very purpose including a few household names and some who are back at the tournament this year.

2015 – Jesús Corona

USA TODAY Sports-Adam Hunger

USA TODAY Sports-Adam Hunger

By the 2015 Gold Cup, Mexico’s Jesús “Tecatito” Corona was far from an unknown.

The 22-year-old winger had already made a move from Monterrey in Mexico to Europe, and he was coming off of his first stint with the Netherlands’ FC Twente in the 2014-15 season.

Tecatito wasn’t an automatic starter for the Mexican Gold Cup squad. He had to earn his place throughout the tournament, making only one start in the team’s five matches before they reached the tournament’s final against Jamaica.

But in the final, Corona took his chance. He earned the start for El Tri, playing in attack alongside Oribe Peralta, and the Mexican attack overwhelmed the Reggae Boyz. Corona scored in the 46th minute for his lone goal of the tournament in a 3-1 win and earned the Best Young Player of the Cup for his efforts.

Just a month after the tournament, Portuguese giants FC Porto paid a reported 10.5 million euros for his services, writing a 50-million-euro release clause into his upgraded contract. Since 2015, Corona has made 57 appearances for Porto, scoring 11 times and adding 11 assists.

2013 – Gabriel Torres

USA TODAY Sports-Gary A. Vasquez

USA TODAY Sports-Gary A. Vasquez

At the start of the 2013 Gold Cup, Gabriel Torres was a goal-scoring machine as a big fish in a small pond.

The 25-year-old striker had put together a 21-goal campaign in Venezuela with Zamora in the 2012-13 season, and he came into the Gold Cup in fine form as Panama’s No. 9.

Torres started the tournament scorching hot, scoring all three of Panama’s goals in the group stage. He added two more in the knockout rounds, helping Panama to a final against the United States where the Yanks took the 2013 title, 1-0. His five goals were tied for the tournament best.

For Torres, the United States was the perfect host for the tournament. The exposure helped him attract the eye of the Colorado Rapids, who made the striker their first Designated Player just two weeks after the tournament ended.

In Colorado, Torres played just two and a half seasons, scoring 10 goals in 55 games. He only started 35 games in his MLS career. But he’s back in the Gold Cup this year, and has already scored two goals.

NEXT: Gold Cup sliding doors, to and from MLS