Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sporting Park to Host US vs Panama in the Gold Cup

CONCACAF today announced the groupings for this summer's Gold Cup, including the USA and their fourth trip to Sporting Park since the stadium opened. The United States, already grouped in Group A will play in Dallas, Foxborough and Kansas City for their three group games. Joining them will be Panama, Haiti, and Honduras or French Guiana (those two meet in a home and away playoff in late March to decide the final team in the tournament).
The United States will open the group in Dallas against the winner of the Honduras/French Guiana playoff on July 7th before taking on Haiti in Foxborough on the 10th. The Yanks will close out group play on July 13th at Sporting Park against Panama. Certainly not an easy group for the United States, especially if Honduras, as expected, takes care of French Guiana in the playoff matchup. You'll have Honduras who has qualified for the last two World Cups, Haiti, who while having not qualified for the World Cup since 1974, have given the US trouble in the past in the Gold Cup, including a 2-2 draw that the US had to salvage at the death in the 2009 version of the competition. Then you have Panama, the USA's opponent in KC, the team they beat in the 2013 version of the tournament in the final 1-0 (beating Mexico twice in that tournament), the team that was a late Graham Zusi goal from heading to the World Cup themselves, and the only team to beat the US in the group stages of the Gold Cup since the tournament was founded in 1991. So there really won't be any easy games for the US in this competition.
Group B will also see its share of tight games with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Jamaica, and Canada making up the group. In Costa Rica you have arguably the best team in CONCACAF right now as the seeded team. You then add in regional rival El Salvador, 2014 Caribbean Cup winners, Jamaica, and co-hosts, Canada, who automatically qualified. While Costa Rica should win the group, playing Canada in Toronto in their final group game could be a strong test.
Of the three groups, Mexico in Group C got the easiest as they'll go up against Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, and Cuba. While you have Guatemala and TnT both runner's up in their regional competitions, neither made The Hex in the last round of World Cup qualifying. Meanwhile Cuba qualified as the fourth place finisher out of the Caribbean.
The winner of the 2015 Gold Cup will meet the winner of the 2013 Gold Cup (the USA) in a home and home series for the right to go to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. If the US wins the Gold Cup this year, the US will automatically advance to the Confederations Cup.

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