After reading a review of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup's group stage, I realized how dumb the event is. For those that might be unaware (I realize there probably is not a huge soccer following on this blog), the Gold Cup is the championship tournament for our soccer region - North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. It is currently held every four years and has been primarily held in the US since 1991. Mexico is the all time leader of the event with seven championships. The US is next with four, including the last three.
The last Gold Cup was held in 2007. A year removed from our embarrassing exit from the World Cup in Germany, we beat Mexico 2-1 at Soldier Field in Chicago. This earned the US Men's National Team a berth in the Confederations Cup, a warmup event held the year before hosting a World Cup. In South Africa this year, the USMNT made international news by defeating number one ranked Spain 2-0 in the semifinal round. We achieved our best result ever in a FIFA international tournament after losing 3-0 to Brazil in the championship game (for more information, click here).
This year's Gold Cup started just a couple of weeks after the Confederations Cup wrapped up. It ends just a few weeks before World Cup qualifying resumes. The top three nations at the end of the fourth round will qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The winners of the Gold Cup get a trophy.
Because the World Cup is the absolute premier event in the world of international soccer (the Olympics and Confederations Cup are a distant second and third), qualifying for the event is of utmost importance. For many nations that means making sure their top players are in the best form when qualifying resumes.
In the case of the USMNT, that resulted in a Gold Cup squad made up of Major League Soccer based players, many of whom have had little or no exposure at the national level. Many soccer fans are referring to the team as our C or D roster. Still, we have managed to win our division during the group stage with two wins and a tie. Regardless of how low on our national totem poll the current players are, they are still heavily favored against most of our opponents at this year's Gold Cup.
Whether or not we win the Gold Cup is a moot point. Pretty much every one of the "powerhouse" nations (Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica) in CONCACAF has sent a B-D roster to the event. It is clear that this year's Cup is being treated as an afterthought or even a joke. With six teams still in the mix for a World Cup spot, everyone is eager for the Gold Cup to wrap up and the "real" national teams to resume playing on August 12. The USMNT will journey to Mexico City; you had better believe both teams will bring their fully rested regulars for a game completely unlike anything going on in the Gold Cup...
Tomorrow I will have a post with some suggestions for improving the Gold Cup!