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June 7, 2011

2011 Gold Cup Preview

Gold Cup Guide:
After a recent surge of support for US national teams, especially around World Cup time, we thought we would provide some coverage of this summer's major soccer tournament. Though it's early in the next World Cup cycle, success in the Gold Cup is critical for teams hoping to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Those who do well give a good indication of who will succeed during the next two years of qualification play.

The Gold Cup is the championship for the Confederation of North American, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). CONCACAF is just one of the regions that comprises FIFA, the world governing body for football.

The United States will host the 2011 edition of the tournament and the winner earns a trip to compete in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil. Simply put, this tournament is the most important competition for the United States' region.

The Confederations Cup is a veritable "trial run" for the nation that is hosting the world cup, the FIFA Confederations Cup is played the year before the World Cup (always an odd year). It features some of the stadiums, a sample of the teams, and helps test the infrastructure of the host nation. (Remember the Confederations Cup in '09, where the team defeated Spain 2-0 and lost (choked) to Brazil 3-2 in a thrilling final?)

Tournament Schedule:

Group A: Mexico, Costa Rica, Cuba, & El Salvador

June 5: Mexico vs. El Salvador [5-0 final], (Arlington, TX)
June 5: Costa Rica vs. El Salvador [5-0 final], (Arlington, TX)

June 9: Mexico vs. Cuba (Charlotte, NC)
June 9: El Salvador vs. Costa Rica (Charlotte, NC)
June 12: Costa Rica vs. Mexico (Chicago, IL)
June 12: El Salvador vs. Cuba (Chicago, IL)

Group B: Honduras, Guatemala, Jamaica, Grenada

June 6: Jamaica vs. Granada, [4-0], (Carson, CA)
June 6: Honduras vs. Guatemala, [0-0], (Carson, CA)
June 10: Jamaica vs. Guatemala (Miami, FL)
June 10: Honduras vs. Jamaica (Miami, FL)
June 16: Guatemala vs. Granada (Harrison, NJ)
June 16: Honduras vs. Guatemala (Harrison, NJ)

Group C: United States, Canada, Panama, Guadeloupe 

June 7: Panama vs. Guadeloupe (Detroit, MI)
June 7: USA vs. Canada (Detroit, MI)
June 11: Canada vs. Guadeloupe (Tampa, FL)
June 11: USA vs. Panama (Tampa, FL)
June 14: Canada vs. Panama (Kansas City, MO)
June 14: USA vs. Guadeloupe (Kansas City, MO)


June 18: (East Rutherford, NJ)
June 18: (East Rutherford, NJ)
June 19: (Washington, D.C.)
June 19: (Washington, D.C.)


June 22: 7 & 10 p.m. (Houston, TX)


June 25: 9 p.m. (Pasadena, CA)


What to expect:
The U.S. has never lost a group-stage game during the Gold Cup (23-0-2), and the fans, along with the team, always expect to reach the furthest stage of the tournament. Of course Mexico and the U.S. are the favorites and that match-up holds potential for a blockbuster final.

The U.S. will have some extra motivation to win CONCACAF's crown this year. A very experimental side meandered its way through the 2009 tournament, which resulted in a shameful defeat in the final to a superior Mexican side. The result still stands as a scar on the Americans' resume (a 5-0 loss at home).

A recent 4-0 loss at home to recent world-champion Spain is still fresh on the team's mind. This should provide some extra encouragement to salvage their pride while playing well against some weaker opposition.

Coach Bradley has assembled an exciting mix of youth and experience (like Dempsey, Donovan, and Howard, mixed with players like Lichaj, Klejstan, and Ream). This team is stronger than those of previous tournaments, and we should see the Americans fare well until the knock-out rounds where strong Central American teams such as Costa Rica, Honduras, and Mexico lie in wait.

Add Ons:
U.S. Soccer has done a good job of keeping fans informed about the United States' involvement in the tournament. The have a complete page involving calendars, history, and rosters that you can see here. They also have a handy, well-designed infographic. Check that out while you're at it.

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