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(Image courtesy of CONCACAF)
THE CONCACAF GOLD CUP
What is it?
The CONCACAF Gold Cup has people excited, but scratching their heads. “What is it again?” they may ask. Soccer fans are exuberant but often there has been some ambiguity as to what the Gold Cup actually is...It is governed by CONCACAF and it is the main tournament for the region, which determines the champion of all CONCACAF, which is North America, Central America and Caribbean islands. For US fans, it’s the equivalent of the European Cup. It is held every two years.
As of 2015, the winners of the two successive Gold Cups will face each other for a game to decide who will represent CONCACAF in the next Confederations Cup. (The Confederations Cup is the pre-tournament to the World Cup, taking place one year prior, held on the grounds of the host country, as a practice run for the World Cup. It gives the World Cup exposure while also giving the host nation an opportunity to test everything out from a practical sense with potential problems like stadium accessibility, traffic issues, parking issues, public transportation issues, hotel accommodations, crime, police response, working with TV stations, and so on.) As you may recall, the US did well in the 2009 South Africa Confederations Cup, reaching the final, eventually losing 3-2 to Brasil.
If the same team is the winner of both consecutive Gold Cup tournaments then they automatically qualify for the Confederations Cup.
Before 1961, the year CONCACAF formed, there was an attempt at a “Gold Cup” of sorts, which was broken into smaller regional match-ups in which Costa Rica did quite well dominating the Central America region, winning in 1941, 1946, 1948, 1953, 1955, 1960 and 1961.
1991: The Beginning
In more recent years, the first Gold Cup was in 1991, as the US won the title. Mexico went on to finish the decade winning three consecutive titles in 1993, 1996, 1998. From 1996 to 2003 the rules were broken a little bit as guest nations like Brasil were invited to join the Gold Cup (likely to give it more exposure). I remember these years, and it left myself and others slightly befuddled, wondering: What is the Gold Cup? Just a tournament for the sake of having a tournament, or, a special CONCACAF-only competition? Then in 2005, it returned to only CONCACAF members. With the exception of Canada winning in 2000, it has been a back-to-back struggle for supremacy between the US and Mexico.
The 2015 groups are:
A) US, Haiti, Panama, Honduras
B) Costa Rica, El Salvador, Canada, Jamaica
C) Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, Cuba
From the Group Stage goes the Quarterfinals, Semifinals, Third Place match and the Final game.
Get ready for large attendance numbers as the 2011 championship at the Rose Bowl between the US and Mexico held over 91,000 people, and the 2013 final between the US and Panama at Soldier Field in Chicago brought in over 57,000 fans.
The US looks to be the favorite this year around, with Mexico disappointing many fans with recent losses. Costa Rica should turn heads as the second best team in the running, coming off their successful 2014 World Cup run.
Currently, Mexico is in the lead with six titles, as the US is knocking on the door with five, giving the American team a lot of motivation to surpass them, one tournament at a time.