This summer is medicine to the soccer soul. All around us we have wonderful competitions going on. We have the Women’s World Cup in France, the U-20 World Cup, Copa America, The US Open Cup, the Leagues Cup, and lastly the Gold Cup. That’s a lot of cups. With all of this soccer it is hard to keep everything straight!
In the next couple of minutes I am going to try and make things a little bit easier by giving you the RSL Soapbox Gold Cup cheat sheet and tournament overview. I’ll break down who is competing, who is favorited to win, when and how to tune in, and what it all means for the US as they attempt to once again establish themselves as the dominate team in CONCACAF and lift a cup.
The Gold Cup: A Brief History
The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) was founded in 1961, bringing together smaller regional divisions into one large confederation that includes every nation from the southern point of Panama up to the northern boundary of Canada.
The Gold Cup was founded in 1990 to replace the CONCACAF Championship and has been hosted or co-hosted by the US ever since. This year, the US will co-host with Costa Rica and Jamaica. Only 3 nations have won the Gold Cup since its inception, with Mexico lifting the cup 7 times, the United States 6 times, and Canada once in 2000. The US won the most recent Gold Cup in 2017, and also has been the runner-up more than any other nation, 4 times.
Occasionally CONCACAF will invite nations outside of the confederation to join in the tournament. Nations like Brazil, Colombia, South Korea, and Peru have all participated although this year their are no special invitees.
The tournament expanded this year from 12 nations to 16, allowing for more countries in our region to compete for the cup than ever before. Even with an expanded field, Mexico has to be the clear favorites to win this tournament with the USA not far behind.
With the expansion to 16 teams, the Gold Cup has also expanded its group stage to four groups, A,B,C and D. Group A has already begun play as of June 15th, with the other subsequent groups starting in the days following.
The groups are as follows:
- Group A: Mexico, Canada, Martinique and Cuba
- Group B: Costa Rica, Haiti, Nicaragua and Bermuda
- Group C: Honduras, Jamaica, El Salvador and Curaçao
- Group D: USA, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana
* Nations that are favored to move to the knockout rounds have been bolded.
The United States outlook:
The USA has a lot going for it in this tournament in the sense that it is a host nation and has the largest population of any country in the tournament. However, it sputtered hard in its build up to the cup, losing both friendlies in uninspiring fashion. That doesn’t mean they can’t get things turned around and still contend for the Gold Cup, it just means that we aren’t brimming with confidence. The hope is that the US squad can build some momentum and chemistry during the group stage.
The US will play three games in the group stage, they should win all three. Here are the details for each of those games.
- June 18th - USA v Guyana; 8:00 PM MT; FS1 and UniMás, UDN and TSN
- June 22nd - USA v Trinidad & Tobago; 6:00 PM MT; FS1, Univision, UDN and TSN5
- June 26th - USA v Panama; 7:00 PM MT; FS1, UniMás, UDN and Fox Sports Go
The US should beat Guyana with relative ease, maybe not as badly as the US Women beat Thailand, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this game end up with a very lopsided result. Guyana is ranked #177 in the FIFA world rankings, far below the US’s spot at #30. This is the must win game for the US as it is the easiest points they can pick up in the group. My prediction is a 5-0 win for the US.
The US must beat Trinidad & Tobago. There is a demon the size of the 2018 World Cup that needs to be exorcised. If the US allows T&T to win this game, or even draw to be honest, that awful night in WC qualifying could become a full blown sports psychology nightmare. That being said, the US should win this game as well. Christian Pulisic certainly has had this game circled on his calendar for many months, as has Omar Gonzalez. My prediction is that the US wins this game 3-0.
If the US wins both the Guyana and T&T games, entry into the knockout round will be secured and they can rest some of their most critical players against Panama. Fail to pick up all 6 points in those games and you will have a nervy final game of the group. Panama is the best competition that the US will face in the group stage and I predict a tight affair, 1-1 draw.
I won’t go into a full blown knockout round breakdown and prediction just yet. There are too many variables in any tournament and it would be extremely speculative for me to do that at this juncture. Once the group stage is over I will check back in with an update and prediction.
For now it suffices to say that should the US move on from the group stage, and they should, they will have 3 knockout round games to win in order to finish as champions of CONCACAF. Those 3 games will all be played in the US and would most likely see the US play Honduras in the quarter-finals, Jamaica in the Semi-finals and Mexico in the final. Stay tuned!