Now that the wheat has been separated from the chaff, well, sort of, the Gold Cup moves on to the first knockout stage, with two of the four quarterfinals decided on Saturday in Baltimore, Maryland.
Four teams would see action on the day, one match would be determined by the slimmest of margins, whereas the other was over almost before it began.
The first game would prove a blow-out, the US crushing Cuba's hopes of moving on to the semifinals with a 6-0 win on the strength of a Clint Dempsey hat-trick.
The US topped Group A with an unbeaten record of two wins and a draw, while Cuba snuck in by a single point, to clinch the second wildcard spot for third-placed finishers, beating out El Salvador, despite a negative six-goal cushion in the Salvadoreans favour.
Dempsey scored the first inside of three minutes from a free-header in the box, rising up to meet a Timothy Chandler cross from the right, sending his finish over the keeper, but under the bar. Strike partner Gyasi Zardes made it two just ten minutes later, arriving completely unmarked at the back-post to steer in a cross from Fabian Johnson on the left.
Aron Johannsson would score the third in the 31st minute, collecting a long ball from Michael Bradley, drifting towards the right for a delicious chip over the Cuban keeper, Diosvelis Guerra, who was caught in no-man's land, forced to watch the goal sail over his head and into the gaping cage.
Cuba's best chance was again stymied by their own lack of cohesion, one player taking a chance off the boot of another for a lesser opportunity.
The Stars and Stripes would add a fourth before half-time when Omar Gonzalez got on the end of a knocked down corner kick. Johannsson met Bradley's left-sided delivery at the back-stick, nodding it down for Gonzalez to pounce, hooking a right-footer past Guerra.
With the match all but over, the USA managed the second half without incident, adding a pair of additional goals in the 63rd and 76th minute, both scored by Dempsey to complete his trio and bring his tournament-leading total up to six.
Having scored from the penalty spot after Johannsson was twisted up by Angel Lopez, right-footing a chip down the middle after misleading the keeper into a dive to his right, Dempsey rounded out the scoring with a lunging right-foot to bend an effort around Guerra. Bradley collected a weak header from Lopez, sliding a ball in for Dempsey, who made no mistakes for his third of the match.
With the dominant win, the USA moves on to the next round, where they will meet the winner of the next quarterfinal, between Haiti and Jamaica, on July 22, in Atlanta, Georgia. Whereas, Los Liones del Caribe drop out after a disappointing tournament that still saw them progress to this stage; the experience will serve them well as they continued to build the sport in their nation.
The second match of the evening was an altogether closer affair, pitting Group B toppers Jamaica, who went unbeaten with two wins and a draw, against a Haitian side that impressed mightily, to take second place in the Group A, beating out Panama and Honduras.
The Reggae Boyz would take the lead after just six minutes when Giles Barnes nipped in front of Frantz Bertin to get on the end of an Adrian Mariappa pull-back from the right end-line. Barnes squeezed a right-footer through the wickets of Haitian keeper, Johnny Placide from a tight angle, to take the initiative for his side.
Haiti would look to respond quickly. James Marcelin saw his shot prevented from crossing the line by Ryan Thompson in the Jamaican goal, when a corner kick fell to him in the area, eliciting a cheeky, relieved smiled from the keeper.
Duckens Nazon would beat Thompson with a low right-footed effort from the right of the arc, only for his attempt to bank off the base of the far-post.
Jamaica's Simon Dawkins would find a chance when played into the area, but hooked his left-footer wide of the right-post with an awkward look.
Les Grenadiers would have one final attempt to level before the half-time whistle when Jean Alexandre released a vicious, swerving right-footer from distance, but it skimmed just over the bar.
With the semifinals in their sights, it was up to Haiti's keeper to prevent Jamaica from padding their lead. Placide made the initial save on an attempt from Jobi McAnuff, but needed Barnes to send the rebound over. He then parried a free-kick from Kemar Lawrence before denying Barnes from a tight angle, as the Jamaican striker tried once more from the right.
Jamaica's early goal would stand, taking the 0-1 win that will see them move on to the next stage, where they will meet the Americans in the semifinals. Haiti may drop out of the disappoint, but can take solace in having reached the quarterfinals for the third time in six appearances at the Gold Cup. They should use this performance, a tournament where they, like Trinidad and Tobago, really impressed as a challenge not to be overlooked, with CONCACAF continued to get better and better.
And with those results, the first semifinal has been set, with the Americans to face Jamaica in Georgia next Wednesday. They appear to be the early kickoff, 6 pm ET, but that remains to be made official.
Sunday sees the other two quarterfinals play out in East Rutherford, New Jersey, with Trinidad and Tobago hoping to extend their tournament life with a meeting against Panama at 4:30 pm ET. T&T topped Group C, capping off a fine group stage with an exhilarating 4-4 draw against Mexico. Panama, meanwhile, were forced to settle for third in Group A, tied with Cuba on three points, but with a zero goal-differential.
The second match will witness Mexico look to get on course for the final with a match against Costa Rica, the darlings of CONCACAF after their performance at the recent World Cup, at 7:30 pm.
Mexico finished second in Group C, runners-up to Trinidad and Tobago, while Costa Rica's three-consecutive draws was good enough for second in Group B.