Gold Cup pairings, venues announced

featuring a pair of new Chicago Fire signings in defenders Samuel Caballero and Mario Ivan Guerrero as well as MetroStars playmaker Amado Guevara -- pitted against Panama, guest team Colombia and Trinidad & Tobago, which counts on players such as new Real Salt Lake acquisition Marlon Rojas and Kansas City Wizards draft pick Scott Sealy.

The USA has been drawn into Group B, where they will face Canada -- coached by former San Jose Earthquakes head man Frank Yallop and featuring Quakes striker Dwayne De Rosario -- along with Cuba and Costa Rica, which will include Los Angeles Galaxy defender Michael Umaña in its ranks.

Group C will have Mexico and guest team South Africa battling against Jamaica -- which has a number of MLS players in its squad, including striker Damani Ralph (Chicago Fire), midfielder Andy Williams (Real Salt Lake) and defender Tyrone Marshall (Los Angeles). The fourth team in the group will be Guatemala, led by a pair of now-Galaxy teammates in Carlos Ruiz and Guillermo Ramirez.

The tournament will commence on July 6 with two Group A meetings at the Orange Bowl in Miami. A doubleheader will feature guest team Colombia vs. Panama (7 p.m. ET) and Trinidad & Tobago vs. Honduras (9 p.m. ET). The U.S. team gets into the action the following day, opening the competition against Cuba at Qwest Field in Seattle (10:30 p.m. ET) after the other Group B members, Canada and Costa Rica, meet at 5:30. Group C play begins on July 8 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., when Mexico faces the other tournament guest team, South Africa (10 p.m. ET) before Guatemala takes on Jamaica (12 a.m. ET).

Following round-robin play in all groups, the top two sides from each foursome will automatically move to the quarterfinal round. Also gaining a berth to the knockout stage will be the two best third-place teams. The quarterfinals are scheduled for July 16-17 for Gillette Stadium and Reliant Stadium in Houston.

Quarterfinal victors then advance to the final four, with a pair of semifinal matches set for July 21 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The championship match follows at the same venue three days later.

Only North American countries have won the previous seven editions of the tournament. The USA won the inaugural event in 1991, before Mexico won three consecutive titles. Canada then claimed the 2000 title, before the USA captured the 2002 Gold Cup, followed by Mexico again in the summer of 2003.

The eighth edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup features a record number of games in more cities than ever before, as 25 in seven cities makes the 2004 competition the biggest to date. The previous record for Gold Cup locations was three different venues. Ticket information for Gold Cup matches has yet to be announced.

Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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