By Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn’t There Yet
The Gold Cup has people excited, but scratching their heads. “What is this again?” they may ask. Soccer fans are exuberant but often there has been some ambiguity as to what the Gold Cup actually is. It is governed by CONCACAF and it is the main tournament for the region, which determines the champion of North America, Central America and Caribbean islands. For US fans, it’s the equivalent of the European Cup. It is held every two years. As of 2015, the winners of the two successive Gold Cups will face each other in a game to decide who will represent CONCACAF in the next Confederations Cup. (The Confederations Cup is the pre-tournament to the World Cup, taking place one year prior to the World Cup, held on the grounds of the host country, as a practice run for the World Cup. It gives the World Cup exposure while also giving the host nation an opportunity to test everything out from a practical sense with problems like traffic issues to hotel accommodations.) Before 1961, the year CONCACAF formed, there was an attempt at a “Gold Cup” of sorts which was broken into smaller regions in which Costa Rica did quite well dominating the Central America region. In more recent years, the first Gold Cup was in 1991, as the US won the title. Mexico went on to finish the decade winning three consecutive titles in 1993, 1996, 1998. From 1996 to 2003 the rules were broken a little bit as guest nations like Brasil were invited to join the Gold Cup (likely to give it more exposure). Then in 2005, it returned to only CONCACAF members. With the exception of Canada winning in 2000, it has been a back-to-back struggle for supremacy between the US and Mexico. The 2015 groups are:
- A) US, Haiti, Panama, Honduras
- B) Costa Rica, El Salvador, Canada, Jamaica
- C) Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, Cuba
The US looks to be the favorite this year around, with Mexico disappointing many fans with recent losses. Costa Rica should turn heads as the second best team in the running, coming off their successful 2014 World Cup run. Currently, Mexico is in the lead with six titles, as the US is knocking on the door with five, giving the American team a lot of motivation to surpass them, one tournament at a time.