The 15th edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup gets underway this weekend as the U.S. men’s national team (USMNT) looks to defend the trophy it won two years ago.
For the first since its inception in 1991, 16 teams will take part in the tournament. CONCACAF unveiled a revamped format in February last year.
While it’s unlikely to see the U.S.A.-Mexico duopoly being broken—except from Canada’s solitary triumph in 2000 no other team has won the Gold Cup—there are talking points aplenty ahead of the tournament.
USMNT has not defended the title since it won back-to-back editions in 2005 and 2007. Elsewhere, Mexico might be a favorite but is in a state of flux after failing at the round of 16 of the World Cup last year for the seventh consecutive time.
Off the field, meanwhile, this year’s Gold Cup makes history as it marks the first time games are held in a country other than the U.S., Mexico or Canada.
Curacao meets El Salvador in the first-ever Concacaf Gold Cup game played in Jamaica during the opening match of a Group C doubleheader in Kingston Monday night.The teams also met in the group stage of the 2017 Gold Cup at Sports Authority Field in Denver, with Gerson Mayen and Rodolfo Zelaya scoring three minutes apart midway through the first half for a 2-0 El Salvador win.
After making their Gold Cup debut two years ago, Curacao are back following an impressive run in Concacaf Nations League qualifiers. That included three wins out of four games with the best goal differential (+20) in the competition.
In the lead-up to the Gold Cup, Curacao competed in the King’s Cup in Thailand, defeating India, 3-1, in the semifinals as Roly Bonevacia, Elson Hooi and Leandro Bacuna scored first-half goals. Curacao claimed the title on penalty kicks after playing Vietnam to a 1-1 draw.
El Salvador are making their 11th Gold Cup appearance, but that nearly didn’t happen. Los Cuscatlecos needed a win on the fourth and final day of Concacaf Nations League qualification, beating Jamaica, 2-0, at Estadio Cuscatlan. Nelson Bonilla scored four minutes after halftime followed by a late own goal by Damion Lowe. That result moved El Salvador into 10th place and ahead of Montserrat on goal difference.
El Salvador, which reached the quarterfinals for the fifth time in 2017, defeated Haiti, 1-0, at RFK Stadium on June 2 after David Rugamas scored the lone goal in the 76th minute. Carlos de los Cobos’ team then fell to host Japan, 2-0, a week later.
The network’s lead announcing team is play-by-play caller John Strong, color analyst Stuart Holden and reporter Roldolfo Landeros. Longtime referee Dr. Joe Machnik is the rules analyst.
Studio coverage is hosted by Kate Abdo, host of FS1′s late-night show that combines highlights of the Gold Cup and Women’s World Cup. Analysts include Cobi Jones, Fernando Fiore, former Union midfielder Maurice Edu and former U.S. women’s team stars Leslie Osborne and Christie Pearce Rampone.
Curacao will face El Salvador in their first of the Gold Cup tournament. The match will take place on Monday at National Stadium Independence Park in Kingston, Jamaica. Both national teams are placed in Group C alongside the co-hosts from Jamaica and Honduras. For El Salvador, this will be their seventeenth CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament, while Curacao played four times as Netherlands Antilles and this will be their second participation under their current name.
Worth mentioning: El Salvador have met Curacao four times in the modern history and are still undefeated, as they won three and drew in the other. None of the clashes between those two national teams produced over 2,5 goals, while just one saw both sides hitting the back of the nets. Curacao were able to score just one goal across the four encounters with their next opponents.