For Toronto area fans hoping to catch Canada in Gold Cup action now would be the time to start saving up airmiles and vacation days as the Canadian Men's National team will not be nearly as close to us this time around. Instead, our west coast Voyaguers will get the chance to travel down to cities like Seattle, LA, and Denver to see the team play in this summer's Gold Cup.
The event's schedule came out on Wednesday morning ahead of the official press conference where it was supposed to be officially unveiled. The tournament is highlighted by semifinals at Cowboy Stadium down in Texas and the final is set for Soldier Field in Chicago. That means that the closest Canada could even get to playing a game near Toronto would be the final in Chicago and that would be quite the last minute flight to try and make should they reach that stage.
Anyhow, Canada ended up in Group A along with Mexico, Panama, and Martinique. It certainly won't be an easy group for a team that will most likely use the event to continue overhauling the squad that failed to reach the final round of World Cup qualifying last fall.
The schedule for Group A is as follows:
Sunday, July 7: Canada vs. Martinique (5:30 p.m.) and Mexico vs. Panama (8:00 p.m.) at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Thursday, July 11: Panama vs. Martinique (8:30 p.m.) and Mexico vs. Canada (11:00 p.m.) at CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
Sunday, July 14: Martinique vs. Mexico (4:00 p.m.) and Panama vs. Canada (6:30 p.m.) at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.
It will be a tricky group to try and navigate and that opening game against Martinique looks to be a vital one for Canada to pick up three points should they have any hopes of getting out of the group. Dropping points there would mean having to get something against Mexico and even with that game being in Seattle it is likely that Mexican supporters will still vastly out number the traveling Voyageurs.
The group wraps up with a game against Panama which is likely to be the team that Canada is fighting with for the second guaranteed place in the knockout round. That sounds like a fairly familiar storyline to the last Gold Cup where Canada went into the final stage of their group knowing 3 points against Panama would be enough to advance but ended up settling for a draw in crushing fashion. (highlights in Spanish)
Canada will be up against it in that group but they will be focused on returning to the knockout rounds for the first time since 2009. It is unlikely that Canada will find a way to repeat the success it had when they won the event back in 2000 but then again they were unlikely candidates to win the event back then as well.
With the exception of Canada winning the top prize in 2000 this has been an event that has been dominated by the United States and Mexico as they have won the title on 10 of the 11 occasions that the Gold Cup has been contested. They have met in the finals the last 3 Gold Cups and many seem to already be penciling them in for another date at Soldier Field this summer.
I won't get into all the theories about why those two countries keep meeting in the finals and how it is good for attendance and revenue as I am sure we all have our own memories of how other teams have been CONCACAF'd hard during Gold Cups and denied a chance to upset one of the events powerhouses.
The schedule for the other groups and the knockout rounds is as follows:
Group B (El Salvador, Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti, Honduras)
Monday, July 8: El Salvador vs. Trinidad and Tobago (7:00 p.m.) and Haiti vs. Honduras (9:30 p.m.) at Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.
Friday, July 12: Trinidad and Tobago vs. Haiti (7:00 p.m.) and Honduras vs. El Salvador (9:30 p.m.) at Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
Monday, July 15: El Salvador vs. Haiti (7:00 p.m.) and Honduras vs. Trinidad & Tobago (9:30 p.m.) at BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas
Group C (Costa Rica, Cuba, Belize, United States)
Tuesday, July 9: Costa Rica vs. Cuba (8:30 p.m.) and Belize vs. United States (11:00 p.m.) at JELD-WEN Field, Portland, Ore.
Saturday, July 13: United States vs. Cuba (4:00 p.m.) and Costa Rica vs. Belize (6:30 p.m.) at Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah
Tuesday, July 16: Cuba vs. Belize (5:30 p.m.) and United States vs. Costa RIca (8:00 p.m.) at Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Conn.
Saturday, July 20: A2 vs. B2 (3:00 p.m.) and A1 vs. B3 or C3 (6:00 p.m.) at the Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.
Sunday, July 21: B1 vs. C2 (4:00 p.m.) and C1 vs. A3 or B3 (7:00 p.m.) at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.
Wednesday, July 24: Winner of Quarterfinal 3 vs. Winner of Quarterfinal 4 (7:00 p.m.) and Winner of Quarterfinal 1 vs. Winner of Quarterfinal 2 (10:00 p.m.) at Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Sunday, July 28: Winner of Semifinal 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal 2 (4:00 p.m.) at Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.