Next month, the North and Central American and Caribbean regional championship of national soccer, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, will make its return to the United States. Held every two years, the Gold Cup tournament sends its winner to the FIFA Confederations Cup; starting in 2015, the winners of the previous two Gold Cups (in this case, 2013 and 2015) will play off to represent CONCACAF in the 2017 Confederations Cup. The U.S. has hosted or co-hosted every tournament; Mexico co-hosted games in 1993 and 2003.
Since its first year in 1991, the Gold Cup (Spanish: Copa de Oro, French: Coupe d’Or) has never left North America. Mexico has won it six times, including the last two in 2009 and 2011; the United States has won it four times, most recently in 2007; and Canada has won it once, in 1999. The second place team has, on three occasions, been a guest team invited from CONMEBOL, the South American confederation – Colombia once, in 2000; and Brazil twice, in 1996 and 2003. Central American runners-up have included Honduras (1991), Costa Rica (2002), and Panama (2005).
This year’s tournament includes all three North American representatives – the U.S., Mexico, and Canada; Caribbean squads from Cuba, Haiti, Martinique, and Trinidad and Tobago; and Central American teams from Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama. The 12 teams have been drawn into three groups of four, and each team will play the others in their group once. The top two teams in each group, plus two third place teams with the next best records, will advance to a knockout round.
Each group will play in a group of cities, and each city will host a doubleheader. Group A (Canada, Martinique, Mexico, and Panama) will play their games in Pasadena, Calif., Seattle and Denver. Group B (El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago) will play their games in Harrison, N.J., Miami, and Houston. Group C (Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, and the U.S.) will hold their games in Portland, Ore.; Sandy, Utah; and Hartford, Conn. Knockout games will be held in Atlanta and Baltimore (quarterfinals); Dallas (semifinals) and Chicago (final game).
Since the beginning of the Gold Cup in 1991, U.S. forward Landon Donovan is the leading scorer, finding the back of the net 13 times; Donovan will have a chance to extend his mark this cycle, having been called up to the USMNT for the Gold Cup. Mexico’s Luis Roberto Alves is next on the list, with 12 goals; 11 of those goals were scored in the 1993 tournament, which still stands as the record for most goals by an individual in a single tournament. Others who hope to add to their totals include Panama’s Luis Tejada, and Honduras forward Carlo Costly.