CONCACAF's marquee competition kicks off on July 7. For comprehensive 2015 Gold Cup coverage, bookmark this page.
Mexico (23rd in FIFA rankings | 2nd in CONCACAF) | Automatic qualifiers | All-time Gold Cup record: 41-7-8, six-time champions
Guatemala (93rd | 10th) | 2014 Copa Centroamericana finalists | 4-16-7 all-time
Trinidad & Tobago (67th | 6th) | 2014 Caribbean Cup finalists | 5-13-5 all-time
Cuba (107th | 12th) | Fourth place, 2014 Caribbean Cup | 2-16-2 all-time
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
It's Mexico and everyone else in Group C. El Tri will be expected to cruise through the group and all the way to the final.
DAVID AND GOLIATH
Cuba have the toughest task of all in facing Mexico first in Group C play. The Cubans aren't in form, getting knocked out in World Cup qualifying and losing a recent friendly to the New York Cosmos. This game has 5-0 (or worse) written all over it.
But Mexico – who, along with the United States, are a clear favorite to win the whole shebang – have been known to start tournaments slow. El Tri are also coming off a disappointing Copa America, albeit with a different squad. If Miguel Herrera's cadre of attacking firepower can’t find the back of the net, Cuba could step up to the challenge and push them. It still looks like an easy win for Mexico, but that’s why they play the games.
Guatemala and Trinidad & Tobago, meanwhile, will play for a place in the Knockout Stages. Two of three third-place teams move on, so goal differential is crucial.
Guatemala vs. Mexico, July 12: A border rivalry, if a lopsided one, Guatemala will be eager to knock their northern neighbors off their lofty perch. In the 2011 Gold Cup, Guatemala caused a scare in the quarterfinals when they took an early lead, only for El Tri to score two second-half goals and move on. Like any game involving Mexico in Group C, it could still be a lopsided win, but this one has the biggest rivalry connotations in group play, no doubt.
GROUP C SCHEDULE
|July 9 | 7 PM||Trinidad & Tobago||Guatemala||Soldier Field, Chicago|
|July 9 | 9:30 PM||Mexico||Cuba||Soldier Field, Chicago|
|July 12 | 6:30 PM||Trinidad & Tobago||Cuba||U. of Phoenix Stadium, Phoenix|
|July 12 | 9 PM||Guatemala||Mexico||U. of Phoenix Stadium, Phoenix|
|July 15 | 6 PM||Cuba||Guatemala||Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte|
|July 15 | 8:30 PM||Mexico||Trinidad & Tobago||Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte|
Carlos Vela, F, Mexico: Can Mexico reclaim the Gold Cup and CONCACAF glory from the US? Chances are Vela, back with Mexico for a tournament for the first time in four years, will play a big part. His mere presence on the field should open up teammates and help Mexico score the bevy of goals their fans expect.
Marco Pappa, M, Guatemala: Arguably at the peak of his game, the Seattle Sounders star will likely need to surpass his exploits at the 2014 Copa Centroamericana, where he was named the tournament's best player, to push Guatemala to a successful Gold Cup run.
Kenwyne Jones, F, Trinidad and Tobago: The 2014 Caribbean Cup finalists are not getting a lot of attention heading into the Gold Cup, but if they are to make waves, they’ll need Jones, a veteran of the English Premier League, to have his best-ever showing for his country at a tournament.
NEXT BIG THING...
Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, M, Mexico: The budding star hasn’t quite made his mark for English-speaking audiences yet, but Corona is coming off a good season in the Netherlands for FC Twente and a decent showing in Copa America. This could be the tournament that makes him a mainstream star in CONCACAF.
Which Cuba will show up? The biggest mystery at this tournament, Cuba look like they’ll likely be cannon fodder for the other three teams in Group C.
But the lack of information about Cuban soccer – as well as a promising generation of young internationals just starting to get their feet wet – means it’s tough to accurately gauge what Cuba can do in the Gold Cup. If they are able to knock off Guatemala or Trinidad & Tobago, it could make the fight for second place very interesting.
Three of the four head coaches in Group C are leading their native countries, with only Guatemala, coached by Argentine Ivan Sopegno, the outlier.
SIX DEGREES OF MLS
Six current MLS players are on the squads of Group C, divided evenly between Guatemala (Seattle’s Pappa, Real Salt Lake’s Elias Vasquez, and FC Dallas’ Moises Hernandez) and Trinidad & Tobago (Chicago Fire’s Joevin Jones, San Jose Earthquakes’ Cordell Cato, and Columbus Crew SC’s Kevan George). In addition, one player on an MLS-owned USL team, the Portland Timbers 2’s Rundell Winchester, is on T&T’s squad.
Mexico will easily win the group, and then it’s down to who will finish second and third. If Trinidad & Tobago can win their first two games before meeting Mexico in their group finale, they’ll be in pole position and can play for a result. But on talent, Guatemala have the edge and should be considered slight favorites to qualify second and automatically advance to the knockout stage.