To the Gold Cup and Beyond

It’s Time: To the Gold Cup and Beyond

Every training session and every game this year for the U.S. Men’s National Team has built to this point. It’s time for the U.S. MNT to defend its title. It’s time for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The Gold Cup is a biennial tournament of CONCACAF teams; a tournament to crown the best of the Caribbean, North and Central American nations. As always, 12 countries will vie for the prize: three from North America, five from Central America and four from the Caribbean.

The winning team will hoist the 35-pound golden trophy, be declared the region’s best team and qualify for a playoff to determine which CONCACAF team will participate at the FIFA Confederations Cup - a competition ahead of the World Cup which features the champion from each region of the world, as well as the host nation and the defending World Cup champion.

The CONCACAF playoff for the Confederations Cup is a matchup of the Gold Cup winners from the two Cups that led into it. The U.S. won the Gold Cup in 2013 and has already qualified for the playoff, so a repeat performance as Gold Cup champions would make its berth in the Confederations Cup automatic.

 For the USA, a team that has gone through a transition period and has featured a number of new players in the months since last summer’s World Cup, the experimentation will come to a stand still for this tournament. The goal laid out by Jurgen Klinsmann has been direct: Win.

This summer, the U.S. Men will go for Cup number six and will try to earn their way back to the Confederations Cup. The MNT excelled in the 2009 edition in South Africa, beating then No. 1-ranked Spain in the semifinals, and advancing to the final to finish as the runner-up. It was the USA’s first trip to a FIFA tournament final.

The experience of a Confederations Cup provides players with an opportunity of a dress rehearsal for the World Cup. They play in the same stadiums they’ll play in in the following summer and they get a chance to experience the climate and the culture, things that surely helped the U.S. advance to the Round of 16 in South Africa in the 2010 World Cup. Success in the tournament also sends a message to viewers worldwide of which teams are poised to be contenders in the World Cup.

"The Gold Cup really is about getting the job done and winning it and qualifying us for the Confederations Cup in Russia in 2017," said Klinsmann. "That’s why it’s really crucial for us to have players on the roster that have tremendous experience.”

The United States and Mexico have been the most successful nations in Gold Cup history. El Tri has six trophies and the U.S. has five of the 12 total tournaments that have been contested. Canada is the only other Nation with a trophy, when it pulled off a shocking win in 2000. The U.S. has reached the Gold Cup Final in five straight tournaments and in six of the last seven.

The MNT is currently riding an impressive four-game unbeaten streak against FIFA top 20-ranked opponents. It all began in March when the MNT drew 1-1 with then No. 12 FIFA-ranked Switzerland in Zurich, even while playing with 10 men down the stretch. In April, the U.S. followed with 2-0 win over arch-nemesis Mexico, and in June it traveled back to Europe to take down sixth-ranked Netherlands, 4-3, and the reigning World Cup champion Germany, 2-1.

Each result was an important one as well as a stepping stone in preparation for the year’s zenith that is now realized in the form of the Gold Cup, the confederation championship. The United States, the reigning champion, will now look to defend its title and its holding as CONCACAF’s best team. A spot in Russia in 2017 is also on the line, making this tournament a welcomed opportunity for a nation carving its path on a continued quest to be the best.