From a competition standpoint, the Gold Cup has been the province of U.S. and Mexican success.
But it’s a quirky little competition in some ways, with shifting time frames, some odd-duck guest appearances, an impressive history of player defections from Cuba and even some attachment to dark scandal.
Let’s take a quick walk through some of the notorious and the memorable, on and off the field:
In the 1998 Gold Cup … Brazil was a guest team, which was a little more common back then. (What ways “regional tournament” like South Korea, which participated in the 2002 tournament? Either way, good thing about Brazil. Because without Brazil’s note-worthy participation 15 years back, Kasey Keller might never have delivered one of the best performances by a human being ever in a U.S. shirt.
In the 2000 Gold Cup … Canada won. No, seriously!
In the 2002 Gold Cup … Cuban players Alberto Delgado and Rey Angel Martinez defected from the Cuban team while it was in Los Angeles.
In the 2003 Gold Cup … Brazil and Colombia were guests. Only, Brazil sent it under-23 team. Hmph! Some moxy … thinking they can come into our house and beat our best with their little under-23s! Ahem … they did, though. Brazil 2, United States 1.
In the 2005 Gold Cup … During the tournament, matches in Miami’s Group A had to be postponed because of Hurricane Dennis.
In the 2007 Gold Cup … Osvaldo Alonso and Lester Moore defected from Cuba. (Alonso has become one of Major League Soccer’s top performers, now doing the holding midfield business in Seattle.) If defection and brave escape from oppressive regimes weren’t such serious business, we’d insert some flip remark here about Cuban defection practically being a Gold Cup tradition.
In the 2011 Gold Cup … The United States lost in group play for the first time. Panama was the winner that night in Tampa – and Tim Ream’s international career has never recovered.
In the 2011 Gold Cup … Yosniel Mesa defect from the Cuban team while in Charlotte, N.C. Seriously, at some point it’s just a freakin’ cliché.
Also in the 2011 Gold Cup …Several matches, including two involving Mexico (a pair of 5-0 wins against El Salvador and Cuba) came under heavy suspicion for betting irregularities. That’s a nice way of saying some aspect may have been fixed. Insidious stuff for our quaint little tournament, eh?