With The Avengers owning 2012 all to itself – along with Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 having already staked out the separate halves of 2013 as their own – it’s been assumed that Captain America 2 is the most likely candidate to snag one of the two 2014 release dates that Marvel Studios has already claimed.

According to Captain America costar Neal McDonough, who plays the bowler-capped Dum Dum Dugan, filming on the (currently) director-less sequel is slated to begin before 2012 comes to a close. Such a move would both pave the way for Cap’s next solo venture to reach theaters by 2014 – and, set the stage for production to begin on one of the many other single Marvel character-centric vehicles being developed right now.

IMDB Television was chatting recently with McDonough about his new role as a sophisticated crime boss on FX’s Justified, when the actor casually revealed the following tidbit about the next Captain America flick:

“They’re planning [to go into production] for the end of this year, because Marvel does one film at a time. So they’re going to do ‘Thor 2′ and as soon as ‘Thor’ has wrapped, they’ll do ‘Cap 2′. Hopefully right after that, we’ll jump into ‘Nick Fury’ because that’s the one I’m looking forward to more than anything.”

While both a Nick Fury solo movie and S.H.I.E.L.D. flick are definite possible future Marvel endeavors, it seems more likely that only one or the other will eventually be made. More so, with other big titles like The Avengers 2 on the horizon, there’s always the chance that studio heads will ultimately hold off all the longer on producing a solo vehicle for Samuel L. Jackson’s one-eyed alter ego.

Moving on – it sounds as though the Captain America sequel is (unofficially) set to arrive in 2014 now, even if production doesn’t begin quite as early as McDonough expects. That means the second Cap-centered movie should also be the “big” Marvel release of that year – with the other Marvel-marked release date being reserved for the live-action debut of a character like Ant-Man or Doctor Strange, whose respective solo vehicles are both reported to be making solid progress down the production pipeline.

Thor and Captain America team up in 'The Avengers'

Now that Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon has confirmed that the film unfolds from Cap’s perspective, it sounds as though the first Captain America movie, The Avengers, and Captain America 2 will essentially form a direct trilogy, in terms of Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) personal character arc.

Screenwriting duo Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s previous comments about how Cap’s second solo film will largely take place in a contemporary setting make all the more sense, in that regard – seeing how CA 2 looks to now be even more of a direct continuation of the Avengers‘ narrative than either the second Thor or third Iron Man installment.

All of the aforementioned upcoming Marvel titles are going to (at the least, partially) be affected by the success of The Avengers – which is poised to test the comic book studio’s plans, when it comes to the feasibility of creating a shared movie universe akin to that featured in Marvel’s graphic novel literature. Best to hold off and see just how everything goes down in Whedon’s superhero ensemble flick, before speculating too much about the films that take place thereafter.

The Avengers hits theaters in the U.S. on May 4th, 2012.

Don’t be surprised if Marvel officially confirms Captain America 2 for a May 16th, 2014 theatrical release date – in the near future, that is.

Source: IMDB Television (via JoBlo and Collider)