Gold Cup semis in store for Thursday

the national team championship for North America, Central America and the Caribbean -- is down to the final four and the remaining squads will battle for the two spots in the championship game in a semifinal doubleheader on Thursday at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Kicking off the action will be the U.S. national team against Honduras, which is scheduled for a 6 p.m. ET kickoff and can be seen live on Telefutura. The participation of Major League Soccer players in the contest is sure to come from both sides, as the bulk of coach Bruce Arena's team is made up of domestic players (including eight All-Stars), while the catrachos roster includes two Chicago Fire men, defenders Samuel Caballero and Ivan Guerrero.

The U.S. team, which on Tuesday received its highest-ever FIFA world ranking at No. 6, is familiar with their foes, having defeated Honduras by a 1-0 score on March 19 in Albuquerque, N.M., on a goal by Eddie Johnson. The FC Dallas striker will not be available to provide the heroics in this meeting though, an injury still sidelining the Florida native. The Stars and Stripes will also be without D.C. United midfielder Ben Olsen, who received a red card in the quarterfinal win against Jamaica.

The Americans arrive in New Jersey having won three of their four matches thus far in the competition. Arena's team beat Cuba (4-1) and Canada (2-0) before drawing (0-0) with Costa Rica to close out Group B play. Jamaica provided little difficulty in the quarterfinals, as the U.S. ousted them by a 3-1 score.

Los Angeles Galaxy forward Landon Donovan and his good friend DaMarcus Beasley are currently tied for the tournament lead in scoring with three goals apiece, along with FC Dallas and Guatemala striker Carlos Ruiz, Luis Tejada (Panama) and Wilmer Velasquez (Honduras).

The Honduras team also makes its way to the Garden State with an undefeated record. They opened with a 1-1 draw against Trinidad & Tobago, defeated Colombia (2-1) and topped Panama (1-0) in Group A action before disposing of Costa Rica 3-2 in the quarterfinals.

Colombia, one of two guest nations invited to join the competition along with South Africa, takes on Panama in the nightcap (9 p.m. ET, Telefutura) as the sides meet for the second time in the competition. The South Americans lost to Panama 1-0 on July 6 in Miami in the first game in Group A play.

Panama went on to finish second in the group after tying Trinidad & Tobago 2-2 and losing to Honduras by a 1-0 score. Colombia advanced to the quarterfinals in third position in the group following a second loss that came at the hands of Honduras (2-1) before they defeated Trinidad & Tobago 2-0 on July 12. The Colombians then shocked Mexico 2-1 last Sunday to advance to the semifinals, while the Panamanians needed a penalty kick shootout to get past South Africa on the same day.

The winners of the two semifinal matches will clash for the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup title on Sunday at Giants Stadium at 3 p.m. ET (live on Telefutura).

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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