2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup Preview
After an impressive round of World Cup Qualifying fixtures this month, the United States Men’s Soccer Team will now shift its focus to the 2017 Gold Cup.
The CONCACAF Gold Cup features a total of 12 teams split into three groups of four. After a round robin that will see each team play three games, the top two teams of each group, along with the two best third-place teams will advance to the knockout stages, which culminates with the final which will be held on July 26 at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco.
The three groups are as follows:
Group A: Honduras, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Canada
Group B: USA, Panama, Martinique, Nicaragua
Group C: Mexico, El Salvador, Curacao, Jamaica
The Americans should have a pretty straightforward journey to the quarterfinals and are the odds on favorites to win their group. Panama, who currently rank fourth out of six in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, should prove the toughest test for the Yanks in the opening stage.
The tournament should be a continuation of Christian Pulisic’s coming out party. It’s clear after the past two qualifiers that the young talisman is the most important player for Bruce Arena and if the team is to win their sixth Gold Cup title, it will be Pulisic who will be pulling the strings.
The US and Panama drew 1-1 in their last meeting, a World Cup Qualifier in Panama City just under three months ago. Los Canaleros own a 1-3-5 record against the Americans, with their only triumph coming in the 2011 Gold Cup. The two favorites to advance from Group B will go toe-to-toe at Nissan Stadium on July 8.
Martinique, an overseas department of France that is not recognized as a FIFA member, earned its way to the tournament by making it to the semifinals of the 2017 Caribbean Cup and will take on the United States at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on July 12. The American lineup against the island nation should offer fans a chance to see some players who are trying to make a statement, like Jordan Morris, Tommy McNamara and Dax McCarty, in action.
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The Americans will close the round robin against Nicaragua at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio on July 18. This matchup, like the one against Martinique, should offer Bruce Arena the opportunity to rotate in some players who haven’t had many opportunities with the senior team. Nicaragua qualified for the tournament through a dramatic comeback win over Haiti in March and could prove to be one of the tournament’s surprise squads.
Should the Americans take care of business and top the group, they will take on the top third place team from the other two groups, which could set up an interesting matchup with Canada at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on July 19.
Canada has been trying to climb the ranks of CONCACAF over the last three decades. The Canadians have failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and haven’t participated in the tournament since 1986. The Gold Cup will present a good litmus test for Les Rouges to see how they stack up as they set their sights on gaining some steam before qualifying begins for 2022.
While Mexico will be expected to make it to the final, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see El Tri have some trouble. It’s going to be a busy summer for Juan Carlos Osorio’s team, who will be sending a more experienced squad to the Confederations Cup in Russia. Thus, an inexperienced but still ultra-talented team will try and help Mexico defend its title as champions.
Should everything fall into place, we could see a tantalizing final between an American squad flush with young talent and a new generation of Mexican stars in what should be a preview for what’s to come in CONCACAF over the next decade.