The summer of soccer continues later this month with the start of the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Held every two years, the Gold Cup determines the champion of North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. The winner will have a chance to compete in the 2021 Confederations Cup. For the first time in the tournament’s history, there will be 16 teams competing in this year’s Gold Cup. The United States enter as reigning champions after winning in 2017, but the 2019 Gold Cup appears to be wide open. Let’s take a closer look at some of the top contenders.
El Tri has a new head coach in former Atlanta United FC skipper Tata Martino, who has earned plenty of good results since taking over in January, including wins over Chile and Paraguay. However, the Mexicans will be without several notable players during the Gold Cup, including Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Miguel Layun, Hector Herrera, and Hirving “Chucky” Lozano. On the bright side, Mexico will still have plenty of recognizable faces, such as experienced midfielder Andres Guardado, striker Raul Jimenez, and goalie Guillermo Ochoa. However, a majority of the El Tri roster plays in the country’s domestic league and is lacking in international experience, which means Martino is leading a team that is lacking experience in big European leagues and at the international level, which could be a concern.
United States, +150
The run-up to the Gold Cup has been an utter disaster for new American coach Gregg Berhalter. The Americans have suffered losses to both Jamaica and Venezuela, failing to score in either game, which hasn’t inspired much confidence. In fairness, the likes of Christian Pulisic, Michael Bradley, and Tyler Adams didn’t play in those games, so the U.S. team won’t be at full strength until after the tournament starts. However, with longtime regulars John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin missing out due to injury, the American backline is an absolute mess and inexperience outside of Bradley and Jozy Altidore could make it difficult for the Americans to defend their title.
Costa Rica, +800
Only once in Gold Cup history has a team other than Mexico or the U.S. won the tournament, but Los Ticos will fancy their chances to change that. Since their run to the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup, Costa Rica is a team that needs to be taken seriously. They’ve won just one of their four matches this year, so their form hasn’t been great. However, Los Ticos are bringing nine players with at least 50 international caps. The likes of Christian Bolanos, Joel Campbell, and Alvaro Saborio will make them dangerous on the attack. However, Costa Rica will have to overcome inexperience between the goalposts, as keeper Keylor Navas is not on the Gold Cup roster.
The Reggae Boyz didn’t even make it to the final six teams in CONCACAF during qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. However, they’ll bring confidence into this year’s Gold Cup because they have been the runner-up the past two tournaments. There aren’t many familiar names on the roster, as Jamaica has very few MLS players. However, they should be surprisingly strong defensively, as some of their top players like Michael Hector, Damion Lowe, and Kemar Lawrence play on the backline or in central midfield. If the Reggae Boyz can find an offensive spark from some of their younger players, they could make another deep run to the finals as they did in 2015 and 2017.
Honduras will head into the Gold Cup fresh off a 7-0 shellacking at the hands of Brazil. Of course, after playing Brazil, everyone they meet in the Gold Cup won’t seem so tough. The Central American side is a little old on the back line, but that also means they bring plenty of experience to the table, particularly captain Maynor Figueroa, who has 151 international caps. If the Honduras defense holds steady, it’ll be up to Figueroa’s Houston Dynamo teammates, Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis, to supply the goals if Honduras is going to play the role of dark horse.
The Canadians took a step forward two years ago by reaching the Gold Cup quarterfinals, and they could be a sleeper this time around. Most of the team is MLS based, helping to form a solid foundation. Canada also has a few European-based youngsters who could be X-factors to watch closely, including 18-year-old Alphonso Davies of Bayern Munich and 19-year-old Jonathan David of Gent. In such a wide-open tournament, Canada shouldn’t be overlooked.
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