The 13th edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup will kick off tomorrow, as the United States looks to repeat as champions after winning the tournament in 2013.
Should the United States win it all, they would equal Mexico’s record of six Gold Cup titles. Canada is the only other country to win the tournament, with one championship in 2000.
While the Gold Cup gives bragging rights as the best team in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, there is more on the line than just pride.
The winner of the Gold Cup will qualify for a one-match playoff against the United States (winners of the 2013 tournament) for a berth in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.
Matches will be played at 13 locations throughout the United States, as well as a pair of games in Toronto. The 12 competing nations are separated into three groups, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the knockout stages. The top two third-place finishers will also move on.
The United States are favorites in Group A, with matches against Honduras, Haiti and Panama. Honduras played in the 2014 World Cup and are hard to break down, known for their defensive and phyiscal play. Panama lost in the 2013 Gold Cup final to the USMNT on a late goal from Brek Shea, and will be looking to avenge that loss in group play. For underdogs Haiti, even a point would be impressive.
Costa Rica made a surprise run to the quarterfinals in the World Cup last summer, and Los Ticos come into the tournament as CONCACAF’s highest ranked team. The rest of Group B is very tight as Jamaica, Canada and El Salvador will likely be in a close battle for second place. Jamaica is coming off of an appearance at the Copa America, and despite failing to score a goal all tournament, the Reggae Boyz showed they can hang with the best. They lost all three of their matches 1-0, although to top sides Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. Canada will look to advance out of the group stage in front of some home support in Toronto, while a relatively unknown El Salvador team has a chance to break through on the big stage.
Group C is headlined by Mexico, the most successful team in tournament’s history. Miguel Herrera rested his stars at the Copa America, putting all his focus on Gold Cup glory. However, El Tri were dealt a huge blow when top goalscorer Javier Hernandez was ruled out after breaking his collarbone. Even without Chicharito, Mexico should still coast through the group stage with matches against Trinidad & Tobago, Guatemala and Cuba. The battle for second place will likely be between Trinidad & Tobago, led by former Sunderland and Stoke City striker Kenwyne Jones and Guatemala, who will look for a good showing after failing to qualify for the tournament last time around. Don’t count out Cuba, who could advance with a third place finish, as they did in 2013.
Stay up to date with all the latest Gold Cup news right here on PST. Hit the “Group Preview” links above for an in-depth look at the competition, as well as the schedule and locations for each game. We’ll have recaps and analysis of all 26 matches, from the opening match July 7 to the final on July 26.