With the groups announced for the 2019 Gold Cup on Wednesday in Los Angeles, the USMNT, entering the tournament as the seeded team in Group D, learned they will face Panama, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana in the group stage.
While it will be the first time the men's senior team will play Guyana, the history with Panama and Trinidad & Tobago is extensive and in some regards, rather painful for the USMNT.
Trinidad & Tobago may have lost 18 of 26 meetings all-time against the USMNT, but the most painful moment of the Americans' modern soccer history came at the hands of the Soca Warriors, who beat the US 2-1 in Couva, Trinidad in the final match of the Hexagonal round of 2018 World Cup qualifying. The result was that the US missed the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
The country that most directly benefitted from that result was Panama, who then went to their first-ever World Cup in 2018. But the US have mixed history against the Canaleros as well -- after the US crashed out in the 2015 Gold Cup semifinal round, they then lost to Panama in a penalty shootout in the 3rd-place match, relegating the Americans to their worst showing in the tournament since a 5th-place finish in 2000.
Panama is a Gold Cup opponent the US know well -- the countries have faced each other in the last seven tournaments.
While reaction to the opponents will likely percolate ahead of the Group D opener on June 18 at Allianz Field in St. Paul, USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter, gearing up for his first competitive games with the national team, is focused on preparing for the tournament.
"I think we'll face many challenges that all the other countries will face," he said during the group unveiling event. "And for us it will be about good preparation. We're excited to get into camp [at the] end of May, and then develop the team and be able to compete in the Gold Cup which is a fantastic tournament."
Dennis Lawrence, who was the manager of Trinidad & Tobago in that fateful win over the US in 2017, echoed a warning that no opponent can be taken lightly, as they seek to improve their best-ever Gold Cup performance, which was 3rd place in 2000.
"I think most important is for us to respect the teams that are in our group, because they are all very, very good teams," he said. "But we're going to go in and put in performances and hopefully we can entertain, because that's what the Gold Cup is all about. So we need to focus on our performances and hopefully that will be enough to give us results."
As one of two Gold Cup debutants this year, along with Bermuda, Guyana coach Michael Johnson said he wasn't counting his team out, which includes Philadelphia Union midfielder Warren Creavalle, from making some waves in the competition.
"How are we going to prepare? We're going to enjoy it. We really are," he said. "I mean, nobody really [gave] us a chance to get here, and I imagine nobody will give us a chance to get out of the group. But I have a group of players who I've got really strong belief in and on any given day we can beat any team in Concacaf, so we're hoping to be prepared and we're hoping to be ready for the competition."