With all but the champion crowned, the 2015 Gold Cup came to its conclusion on Sunday with the final between Jamaica and Mexico played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the Linc.
Tournament darlings Jamaica were never expected to make it this far.
They topped Group B, beat Haiti and the USA in the knockout rounds, earning a chance to become just the fourth nation to ever hoist the CONCACAF title.
Mexico, on the other hand, were predicted to progress to this point.
But a pair of draws in the group stage saw them finish second in Group C, reaching the final by the slimmest of margins: requiring extra time wins over Costa Rica and Panama, both with the aid of controversial decisions.
The two sides exchanged half-chances through the opening phase of the match, feeling each other out.
Jamaica, who had been impervious this tournament, scoring seven goals and conceding three, looked a little affected by the occasion, nerves perhaps creeping in.
And come the 30th minute, it was El Tri who took the lead with a goal worthy of the occasion.
Paul Aguilar swung a cross into the area from the right, picking out Andres Guardado at the left-post. Guardado, second only to Clint Dempsey in the golden boot standings, met the service with a left-footed volley, guiding the ball high into the top left-corner of the goal to open the scoring with his sixth goal of the competition.
Stung, Jamaica would look to regroup, seeing out the remainder of the half without incident.
But before The Reggae Boyz could find their way back into the game, Mexico made it two; the goal coming in the first minute of the second half of play.
Replacement centre-back Michael Hector stumbled on the ball, allowing the pressure of Jesus Corona to force a turnover in the attacking third.
Corona tore towards goal, running up the middle and beating Ryan Thompson with a low left-footed strike to the bottom right-corner of the goal in the 46th minute, all but eliminating any Jamaican hopes of a comeback.
Such hopes were officially dashed in the 60th minute when another error from Hector allowed an Aguilar cross from the right to fall to Oribe Peralta in the area. Hector tried to cut out the ball, but his poor touch rebounded off his standing heel, gifting Peralta a chance to right-foot a quick shot into the Jamaican net.
Trailing by three, Jamaica would find a lifeline in the 78th minute when Jobi McAnuff slipped a ball down the left-channel for Darren Mattocks to gain entry to the Mexican box. Mattocks cut inside on Francisco Rodriguez and beat Guillermo Ochoa with a low right-footer to the far-side of goal.
But it would prove to be mere consolation.
With the 1-3 win, Mexico hoist the Gold Cup for the seventh time – two more than the USA – and were named CONCACAF Champions for the tenth time in total, dating back to the pre-Gold Cup era.
Not only that, but they also booked a one-off date with the Americans on October 9, 2015, to determine which Gold Cup champion will represent CONCACAF at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. That match will be held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Must watch television that one.
Jamaica will be bitterly disappointed with how their tournament ended, but should hold their heads high at having rattled the cages of the CONCACAF heavy-weights. And they should look to carry that form into World Cup Qualifying – their campaign starts in the upcoming Third Round with a home-and-away series against Nicaragua; a Fourth Round group with Costa Rica and Panama awaits the winner of that tie.
With the end of the cup, the awards were announced, with a pair of Americans and a pair of Mexicans sharing the silverware. Clint Dempsey took the Golden Boot, while Andres Guardado earned the Golden Ball. Brad Guzan collected the Golden Glove and Jesus Corona was awarded the Bright Future award.
Though riven with the old spectres of controversy and favouritism, the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup was an entertaining spectacle. Unheralded teams rose to the forefront, the big boys stumbled, and the tournament took a bold step by hosting a game outside of the continental US.
For the game to continue its growth in this region, all three of those aspects will be important to flattening out the level of competition and amassing the required infrastructure to ensure a certain quality of performance.
What will the next edition, set for 2017, offer? Will have to wait and see.