2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup has just started, and all eyes are on the USMNT and
whether they’ll successfully defend their title.
This year, the United States is hosting soccer’s biennial
Gold Cup championship, governed by the Confederation of North, Central American
and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). Hot on the heels of their 2017
win, the US Men’s National Soccer Team has been gearing up to defend their
title against all comers. Hopes are high it will be the USMNT on the pitch this
July for the semifinals at Nissan Stadium, and that they’ll continue on to
Chicago’s Soldier Field for the finals.
Who will the US men’s team need to defeat to make it to
the finals? There’s a long road ahead for the team. As six-time champions, the
pressure’s on for the team to add one more win to tie with Mexico, which leads
the league with 7 total wins since its inception in 1963. But in order to meet
and defeat the Mexican national team or any other potential contender, the
USMNT will first need to progress up the bracket by knocking out other teams in
68 early-phase matches, 10 teams have qualified for the 2019 Gold Cup, based on
points earned, goal difference and a series of additional tiebreaker criteria.
Competing in this year’s Gold Cup are Bermuda, Canada, Cuba, Curacao, El
Salvador, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, and Nicaragua. In addition, Costa
Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States have
qualified by virtue of having participated in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Hexagonal
qualifier round. The tournament groups were unveiled on April 10 in Los Angeles
and, for the first time, 16 teams will take part in the Gold Cup, an expansion
that allows for more meaningful games for more teams across the confederation.
The USMNT has been assigned to Group D for the 2019 Gold Cup, playing alongside teams representing Guyana, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago. The US already has a lot to prove, considering they didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup — the results of a loss to T&T that sent Panama to the qualifiers instead.
The loss meant a challenging 18 months to follow for the
USMNT, as the team faced strong criticism from fans, but hopes are high that
new head coach Gregg Berhalter will lead the team to finish at the top of their
group. The United States’ most influential star, Christian Pulisic, is also
expected to have a major impact in this year’s Gold Cup, as he prepares to make
the move to Chelsea this summer. In addition to Pulisic, the US roster will
likely boast a mix of energetic, young talent like Matt Miazga and Tyler Adams,
along with veterans of the game such as Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley.
Even with a stellar lineup, Group D is likely to give the
US a run for their money. Panama is strongly favored to qualify, which could
lead to an explosive semi-final if both teams advance. Of course, that’ll only
happen if they’re both able to successfully knock out qualifying teams from
their competing group.
After all, Panama’s awkward exit from the last World
Cup’s — in which they were defeated 6-1 by England — puts the team at stake.
Panama will be led by Julio Dely Valdes, one of the country’s all-time greatest
strikers and current interim manager of both the national team and the country’s
In the unlikely event that Trinidad & Tobago reaches
the semi-finals, the USMNT will once again go up against the Soca Warriors. The
squad is primarily made up of players from local leagues and US teams and is
led by veteran Khaleem Hyland, a defensive midfielder for
Al-Faisaly in Saudi Arabia. Other T&T threats
include Levi Garcia, Joevin Jones, and Lester Peltier, who respectively play
for Israeli, MLS and Saudi Arabian teams.
Group C Contenders
No matter who qualifies for the next round, Group D’s
winner and runner-up will need to face the top two teams from Group C for the
next round of elimination. Considered a bit more unpredictable, Group C
includes Honduras, Jamaica, El Salvador & Curacao. Honduras is on
everyone’s short list to qualify this year, but the Reggae Boyz from Jamaica
might challenge that assumption. As 2017 runners up, Jamaica could bring the
heat in 2019 as they did two years ago; their surprise knockout of Mexico in
the Semi-Finals turned more than a few heads.
The Jamaican national team will feature a squad that
includes local league players as well as other familiar faces, such as current
F.C. Cincinnati striker, Darren Mattocks. The same Mattocks who, last year
throughout the MLS season, netted 10 goals while he was playing for D.C.
Leon Bailey has decided to represent the Reggae Boyz this year, as his long
dispute with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) seems to have come to an
end. The 22-year-old player had previously turned down numerous invitations,
the most recent coming in October 2018 when Bailey had agreed to play against
Bonaire but later refused after his adopted brother Kyle Butler was not invited
to the squad.
is one of the youngest and most popular players on the European soccer scene,
and his decision is crucial in this year’s Gold Cup semifinals. He’ll be
playing at the left flank and is sure to make things difficult for Nick Lima,
the US defender playing right back.
Jamaica’s other advantage in 2019 is that, along with Costa Rica and the United States, they’re one of this year’s Gold Cup hosts. Jamaica’s first match versus Honduras will be played in Kingston, providing some home field energy that could easily push the Reggae Boyz back into CONCACAF contention once again. The flip side of the coin, though, is that Philadelphia is hosting the quarterfinals, giving the USMNT that same home audience advantage that could send them to the semis in Nashville.
for the Gold
USMNT is heavily favored to win the semifinals for 2019,
whether they’re matched up against one of Group C’s teams or the runner up for
Group D again. This would put them up against either Costa Rica or Mexico in
the finals at Soldier Field — unless, of course, there are some major
upsets in store for 2019.
Costa Rica’s disappointing exit from the 2018 World Cup Group Stage, “Los
Ticos” are still considered to be among the top 3 strongest teams in the
CONCACAF. Three-time Gold Cup winners, with a rich history and their
never-say-die attitude, the Costa Ricans are a force to be reckoned with. This
time, “La Sele” will enroll an almost entirely different squad than
last Gold Cup’s 3rd place medalists. The always reliable Bryan Ruiz is expected
to dominate the midfield, while Mayron George is likely to end up as the team’s
main striker. But admired goalkeeper Keylor Navas will be noticeably missing
from this year’s Gold Cup, a significant setback for the team.
still, if Costa Rica reaches the final at the expense of Mexico – expect
nothing less than war. The USMNT will have to be fast and aggressive to beat
Los Ticos and win the final.
the other hand, there’s Mexico: one of the strongest and most cherished
national teams in North and Central America, and seven-time Gold Cup winner.
This year, Mexico will have an added challenge of several key players being
absent from the field. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Hector Herrera, Carlos
Vela, and Hirving Lozano are all missing from the roster this tournament,
ensuring that Mexico has its work cut out for themselves.
Despite that, Mexico will enroll one of the strongest squads in the tournament, including a mix of experienced veterans from Europe’s elite leagues and promising youngsters. Among the lineup are sassy goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, “El Capitano” Andres Guardado, Hector Moreno, and EPL’s Wolves’ bomber Raul Jimenez, who scored 17 goals this season in one of the biggest leagues worldwide. The USMNT will have to bring their “A” game to take the trophy home, as the two teams have squared off five times in the Gold Cup finals with the USMNT winning only once, in 2007.
No matter the matchup, it’ll undoubtedly be an exciting time for all soccer fans, and advance tickets are sure to sell at a premium, as confirmed by 2017 figures.
The above chart, provided by online ticketing marketplace Gametime, displays historical data regarding the median ticket prices leading up to Gold Cup events. In 2017, median ticket prices hovered near $55 in the days prior to the Gold Cup but dropped to almost $40 at the very last minute, as game time approached.
Fans who waited until the last minute snagged better
ticket prices — a trend that’s likely to repeat this year for those who are
able to curb their excitement and hold out until game day.
That said, this year’s tournament overlaps with the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which could draw interest away from the Gold Cup as the USWNT is playing in France as defending champions. Soccer fans may have to choose between the two events, potentially freeing up seats for the Gold Cup matches this summer.