In 2013, the USMNT took a defining step in their growth, winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time since 2007. The Gold Cup championship entitles the United States not just continental supremacy, but a place in the playoff to decide who will represent CONCACAF at the next Confederations’ Cup in 2017. Dubbed the “trial World Cup” by the soccer populous, the Confederations Cup is an important step for most teams to get acclimated to the World Cup stadiums, and get a feel for the world’s most important tournament.
While the United States is certainly the favorite headed into the 2015 Gold Cup, here are three teams that will give them trouble during this summer’s tournament.
It almost goes without saying that Mexico will give the United States problems, however the recent form of the Mexican side, especially against CONCACAF opponents has shed light on the struggles of the southernmost member of North America. Mexico failed to reach the final of the Gold Cup in 2013, losing to Panama in the semifinal, and drawing a great deal of disdain from the demanding Mexican fan base.
Luckily for Mexico fans, their team is back with a vengeance. Miguel Herrera clearly prioritized the Gold Cup over Copa America, where he sent what is widely regarded as a Mexican “B team” to contend for the South American championship. Thus, American fans can expect to see the likes of Chicharito Hernandez, Giovani dos Santos, and Guillermo Ochoa on their fields this summer, all looking to erase the 2013 memory of disappointment for Mexican fans by bringing home the Gold Cup.
Only one team besides the United States and Mexico has ever won the Gold Cup, and surprisingly enough, that is the Canadian national team of 2000, who completed a cinderella campaign to take home the trophy. After nearly a decade of struggle to do anything of merit in CONCACAF following that win, it seems Canada may once again have some optimism regarding their national soccer program.
Benito Floro, the longtime La Liga manager has certainly elevated the play of the Canadian side during his short term as manager, and with a Gold Cup side boasting mostly European and MLS based players, Canada will look to make a name for themselves ahead of their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign. Canada will be especially dangerous up front, with MLS youngsters Tesho Akindele of FC Dallas and Cyle Larin of Orlando City looking to make impacts in their first major tournament with the national team.
The second CONCACAF invitee to the Copa America, Jamaica surprised a lot of teams with their athletic, and oftentimes unsettling, play. While the Reggae Boyz lost all three of their matches in the South American competition, they put on admirable performances, giving up just one goal apiece to superpowers like Argentina and Uruguay.
The same team that competed in Copa America will take the field during the Gold Cup, and Jamaica will certainly have its eyes on the trophy. Their speed up front will be extremely difficult for any team to handle, as their striking tandem of Giles Barnes and Darren Mattocks will likely devastate opposing back lines, especially in the latter stages of matches. Mattocks has looked especially good in recent matches, and many fans believing the Vancouver Whitecaps man is in the best form of his career. A notoriously athletic side, Jamaica will thrive in the heat of the summer competition and make life extremely difficult in the late stages of matches for teams that simply can’t handle the pace of the Reggae Boyz.