PHILADELPHIA, July 20, 2015 – The United States men’s soccer team defeated Cuba in a 6-0 drubbing last week, advancing Team USA to the CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals. USA will next face Jamaica on Wednesday, July 22, while Panama and Mexico battle in the other semifinal game.
Stop yawning. The Gold Cup matters. Really.
Most semi-soccer-fans will not watch a single CONCACAF game, even if the US makes it to the finals to defend its title. The Women’s World Cup satiated those with only a passing interest in the sport, and even most international fans maintain only a passing interest in the regional competition.
“It’s kind of hard to get excited about Honduras versus Haiti…no offense,” notes one South Florida soccer fans.
CONCACAF, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, hosts the Gold Cup, which is the regional championship for North America, Central America and the Caribbean. It takes place every two years, and includes the top 12 teams from the region.
CONCACAF generally lacks the big names of the European championship (UEFA) or the South American championship (Copa America), but it does provide exciting soccer for those who watch. Clint Dempsey’s first international hat trick against Cuba was a highlight, and the Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore triumvirate always deliver.
That said, most fans are unlikely to move their schedules around to watch matches. If the final is a Mexico-USA match, which is most likely, they may tune in, but it’s not a must-watch.
For coaches and players, however, the Gold Cup is important. US coach Jurgen Klinsmann has called this a must win, saying Team USA needs to defend its title and win to prepare for the 2017 Confederations Cup, which essentially is a dress-rehearsal for the 2018 World Cup.
Playing in the Confederations Cup gives teams a good look at the World Cup competition and helps prepare teams for the all-important tournament. The US last played in the Cup in 2009. It needs the exposure, and gives it strong international practice time ahead of the World Cup.
Klinsmann likely does need the win. Bob Bradley lost his coaching position after a crushing loss to Mexico in 2011. While the loss may not have been the only reason for his dismissal, Klinsmann doesn’t want to take any chances.
The Gold Cup is also a chance for players to show coaches that they are contenders for the national team. Coaches are already building toward the 2016 Olympics and, even more importantly, the 2018 World Cup.
Players like 23-year-old Gyasi Zardes desperately wants to dazzle the USA decision makers. The LA Galaxy midfielder has only been on the national team for a year, and he wants to cement his spot with a strong showing in the Gold Cup. Ditto for 22 year old DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks.
The Gold Cup is also important for US soccer. The USA is gradually gaining grudging acceptance in the international soccer community. To continue this path, it needs to keep winning. And it needs to win the Gold Cup.
The Gold Cup finals take place on Sunday, July 26, at 7:30pm at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Fox Sports and Univision will televise the match.