Anyone interested in getting a little bit of that World Cup feeling back following the dominant win of the U.S. National Women’s Team this year and last year’s ratings record-setting run by the Men’s National Team should tune in this weekend to the final two games of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which will wrap up with a runners-up match on Saturday, July 25, and a final on Sunday, July 26, right here in Philadelphia.
What is CONCACAF? CONCACAF is an acronym for Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football. It’s essentially a division of FIFA that governs international soccer in the northern half of the Western Hemisphere. Its two most high-profile events are the Gold Cup, which serves as a qualifier for the World Cup competition, and the Champions League tournament in which club teams compete. This year’s Champion’s League was won by Mexico’s Club America, which beat Montreal’s Impact.
But back to the Gold Cup. Why’s the Gold Cup worth your attention?
First, the tournament is fun if you’re interested in following international soccer. Much of the drama of international sport takes place during the Gold Cup. There have been Mexican fans throwing bottles at a player from Trinidad and Tobago moments before his corner kick finds a teammate’s head for an extra time goal. The Cuban national team missed a flight and was late for an opening round game, and qualified for the quarterfinals only to lose five players who decided mid-tournament to defect.
Second, if you’re a fan of the U.S. Men’s Team, the Gold Cup is where that team takes shape. Who will be on the next World Cup Team? Those decisions are being made right now by U.S. coach (and former German national star) Jurgen Klinsman. Being led by World Cup vets like Michael Bradley in the midfield and Clint Dempsey (now with 6 goals in just 4 matches) and newcomers like Gyasi Zardes gives fans of the U.S. team something to root for.
Third — it’s a soccer competition the U.S. dominates. While we’re not used to getting very far in the World Cup when it comes to our men’s team, the U.S. has won 5 of the last 12 tournaments (a number only exceeded by Mexico’s 6 wins). With the U.S. already a lock for the semifinals, a rematch with Mexico in the Final seems likely.
Finally, it’s a major international competition that’s going to take place in Philadelphia. The runners up game, which will determine who finishes third and fourth place, will take place at PPL Park in Chester, the home of local Major League Soccer side, the Philadelphia Union. The final will be held at Lincoln Financial Field, where a contest between the U.S. and Mexico promises to fill the football stadium to capacity.
As of writing this, tickets for the final are still available at www.ticketmaster.com/CONCACAF-Gold-Cup-tickets/artist/960349
Both games will be televised on Fox Sports 1.