Throw out everythinng you thought about the 2021 Gold Cup–including our original preview–thanks to USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter’s decision not to use any of his European-based stars in the USMNT roster.
Summer 2021’s third tournament, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, begins this evening and runs through August first. The 16-team, four-group tourney will have two teams progress from each group to the quarterfinals, then semifinals and the final. In the knockout stages, extra times followed by penalties will be used if needed.
The groups are as follows: Group A—Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Trinidad and Tobago; Group B—USA, Canada, Martinique, and Haiti; Group C—Costa Rica, Jamaica, Suriname, and Guadeloupe; and Group D—Honduras, Panama, Grenada, and Qatar (the one outside guest).
In Group A, Mexico and El Salvador seem the favorites but both of the remaining teams could be spoilers. In Group B, the USA and Canada are favorites. In Group C, Costa Rica and Jamaica seem prohibitive favorites. In Group D, Honduras and Panama should be favored, but Qatar is the tourney’s dark horse, and they could make the group interesting.
What do you need to know?
Mexico is going all out to win this tourney given their recent 2-3 loss to the USA in the CONCACAF Nations League and with their full squad available they should be considered the overwhelming favorites to win it all.
So why not the USA? Well, national coach Berhalter has decided not to use the vast majority of the foreign-based USA stars, that is to say, the cream of our crop and the heart and soul of the squad. Berhalter may not want to call this the USMNT lite or the B team, but in effect it is, and they are not quite at the level of the A-team.
So, expect Canada who will only be missing Jonathan David, to be a true competitor for the group’s top spot. The difference between first and second place in the group is winning and meeting Jamaica or coming in second and meeting Costa Rica. Similarly, the second-placed team gets transferred over to Mexico’s half of the bracket meaning a semifinal instead of a finals meeting if the teams progress.
What will make this a memorable tourney?
It is the first time a number of teams are participating in the tourney, and one never knows what rookie participants will pull out of the hat. It is also an important tourney for Qatar, the 2019 Asian Cup winners, who will be hosting the World Cup in winter 2022. Finally, the USA B team might not be up to the task and then Mexico might have a much easier time of it. Finally, Canada is due for a breakout and Costa Rica, Honduras, and Jamaica seem poised to do some damage.
That is more than enough to make things much more interesting than the average Gold Cup, which has tended to be a Mexico-USA plus one or two others tourney for a long time. This might be the Gold Cup of upsets and surprises. Stay tuned!
The USA manages to get out of its group on top but loses to Jamaica in the quarterfinals. Qatar meets and beats Mexico in the quarterfinals and then is too used up to compete and is beaten by either a resurgent Costa Rica or a putting-all-together-in-time Canada.
The unexpected final features a Honduran team who beats Jamaica on penalties in the semifinals against the tourney winner, either Costa Rica or Canada.