Will U.S. and Mexico advance to Gold Cup semifinals in Georgia Dome?

You think the window of international soccer is closed now that the U.S. defeated Japan to clinch its third Women’s World Cup championship?

The Gold Cup, the biennial tournament for teams in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, kicks off Tuesday and Atlanta will play a role in determing the champ.

Region heavyweights U.S. and Mexico are the prohibitive favorites to meet for the championship, which, if the U.S. wins, comes with an automatic berth into the 2017 Confederations Cup.

The semifinals of the Gold Cup will be held at the Georgia Dome on July 22. A new attendance record for soccer in the city should be set if the U.S. and Mexico advance as expected. The previous mark of 68,212 tickets purchased was set last year when Mexico played Nigeria in a World Cup warm-up game.

While Mexico frequently plays in the Dome, the U.S. men's team hasn't played in metro Atlanta since 1977, when it defeated China 1-0 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

Here’s a look at each of the 12 teams in the Gold Cup with their chances of appearing in the Georgia Dome:

Group A


FIFA rank: 27.

Best Gold Cup finish (as the Gold Cup, not the tournament that predated it): Winners (2013, 2007, 2005, 2002, 1991).

Manager: Jurgen Klinsmann.

Player you should know: Michael Bradley. After suffering through a horrendous World Cup last year in which the only good thing that could be said was the midfielder ran a lot, Bradley's slump continued for Toronto FC in MLS. But he has bounced back with a strong showing for club and country this year, highlighted by his play in upsets over Holland and Germany.

About the team: If Bradley is moving forward with the ball, the U.S. will be tough to beat. If he's moving sideways or backward, the U.S. attack will stagnate and give what should be overmatched opponents a chance a steal a point with a tie or three with a win. After the U.S. played so well without Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey in those two famous upsets, it will be interesting to see how the U.S. plays with their almost certain inclusion in the starting lineup. Dempsey can play 1-2 touches, but Altidore is counted on as more of a hold-up player and didn't look good in the recent victory over Guatemala.

Chance of making it to Atlanta: Very good.



FIFA rank: 76.

Best Gold Cup finish: Quarterfinals (2009, 2002).

Manager: Marc Collat.

Player you should know: Johnny Placide. Haiti's goalkeeper is one of a few players on the roster born abroad but who have become members of Haiti's team. He is going to face a barrage of shots.

About the team: Yes, Haiti finished third in the Caribbean Cup last year, but they didn't face any teams as good as they will face just in the group stage of the Gold Cup.

Chance of making it to Atlanta: Not good.



FIFA rank: 75.

Best Gold Cup finish: Runners-up (1991).

Manager: Jorge Luis Pinto.

Player you should know: Andy Najar. The midfielder used to feature for D.C. United but is now doing well with Anderlecht in Belgiuim.

About the team: Honduras has fallen on hard times since qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. They were pitiful in Brazil in allowing eight goals and haven't improved much since.

Chance of making it to Atlanta: Not good.



FIFA rank: 54.

Best Gold Cup finish: Runners up (2013, 2005).

Manager: Hernan Dario Gomez.

Player you should know: Blas Perez. The FC Dallas forward will be the man to watch up top for Panama and is capable of sneaking a goal and turning a game.

About the team: The finalists in the 2013 Gold Cup just missed out on a playoff for the World Cup. If this aging team has one last run, now is the time.

Chance of making it to Atlanta: Good.


July 7: Panama vs. Haiti, 7 p.m.

July 7: U.S. vs. Honduras, 9:30 p.m.

July 10: Honduras vs. Panama, 6 p.m.

July 10: U.S. vs. Haiti, 8:30 p.m.

July 13: Haiti vs. Honduras, 7 p.m.

July 13: Panama vs. U.S., 9:30 p.m.


Group B


FIFA rank: 109.

Best Gold Cup finish: Winners (2000).

Manager: Benito Floro.

Player you should know: Cyle Larin. He was the No. 1 pick in the MLS Super Draft and already has three goals for Orlando SC this season.

About the team: Other than the U.S., perhaps no country has benefitted more from the MLS than Canada in terms of player development. Many of its key players ply their trade for the league. However, this will be a tough group from which to advance.

Chance of making it to Atlanta: Good.


Costa Rica

FIFA rank: 14.

Best Gold Cup finish: Runners up (2002).

Manager: Paulo Winchope.

Player you should know: Bryan Ruiz. The midfielder isn't a star in Europe, but he has been a mostly steady player for Fulham in England. He wants to leave the club and is likely hoping that a solid performance in the Gold Cup will improve his chances of leaving.

About the team: With the crafty Ruiz in the midfield and Joel Campbell at forward, Los Ticos are capable of winning the Gold cup for the first time.

Chance of making it to Atlanta: Very good.


El Salvador

FIFA rank: 89.

Best Gold Cup finish: Quarterfinals (2013, 2011, 2003, 2002).

Manager: Albert Roca.

Player you should know: Andres Flores. The midfielder plays for the New York Cosmos in the NASL.

About the team: They are in a bit of a slump coming into the Gold Cup and will be missing at least one key player. If they were in Group C, they might be able to advance.

Chance of making it to Atlanta: Not good.



FIFA rank: 65.

Best Gold Cup finish: Third place (1993).

Manager: Winfried Schafer.

Player you should know: Giles Barnes. He has scored 26 goals in four seasons for Houston in MLS.

About the team: They are an enigma with a bizarre history in the Gold Cup littered with DNQs. Their forwards and fast and their defense is experienced. The question will be their midfield: can it use its experience to maintain possession and build attacks?

Chance of making it to Atlanta: Good.


July 8: Costa Rica vs. Jamaica, 8 p.m.

July 8: El Salvador vs. Canada, 10:30 p.m.

July 11: Jamaica vs. Canada, 6:30 p.m.

July 11, Costa Rica vs. El Salvador, 9 p.m.

July 14: Jamaica vs. El Salvador, 6 p.m.

July 14: Canada vs. Costa Rica, 8:30 p.m.


Group C


FIFA rank: 107.

Best Gold Cup finish: Quarterfinals (2013, 2003).

Manager: Raul Gonzalez Triana

Player you should know: Ariel Martinez. He scored a hat trick in the game that propelled Cuba into the knockout rounds of last year's tournament.

About the team: They have two wins in 20 Gold Cup games, but could double that total in this weak group.

Chance of making it to Atlanta: Not good.



FIFA rank: 93.

Best Gold Cup finish: Fourth place (1996).

Manager: Ivan Sopegno.

Player you should know: Marco Pappa. The Seattle midfielder will have to play the best games of his career to give his team a chance to advance past the quarterfinals of the tournament.

About the team: Guatemala made it to the finals of the 2014 Copa Centroamericana, but it will be tough for them to defeat any of the "Big Three" in the Gold Cup to make it to the finals of the Gold Cup. Guatemala created a few decent scoring chances in a warm-up match against the U.S., but still lost 4-0.

Chances of making it to Atlanta: Not good.



FIFA rank: 23.

Best Gold Cup finish: Winners (2011, 2009, 2003, 1998, 1996, 1993).

Manager: Miguel Herrera.

Player you should know: Gio dos Santos. Dos Santos is reportedly headed to MLS to play for Los Angeles. It is a huge move for MLS because dos Santos is still 26 years old and in the prime of his career. He is one Mexico's most popular players because he has amazing skill on the ball. A prodigy, dos Santos had a difficult time sticking with a club until finally finding a stable situation in Spain with Villarreal, the club he has been with since 2013 until the recent move to MLS.

About the team: The team's chances of winning the Gold Cup were hurt after Javier Hernandez suffered a broken collarbone in an exhibition match. Even without Hernandez, Mexico has the depth with Guillermo Ochoa, Miguel Layun, Carlos Vela and Andres Guardado and skill to easily make it to at least the semifinals of the tournament.

Chance of making it to Atlanta: Very good.



FIFA rank: 67.

Best Gold Cup finish: Third place (2000).

Manager: Stephen Hart.

Player you should know: Kenwyne Jones. The tall, strong forward for Cardiff City has played for clubs all over England and is arguably the most dangerous scorer in the group now that Hernandez is out injured for Mexico.

About the team: Trinidad threw a scare into Mexico before falling 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Gold Cup. They are a young squad so it will be interesting to see how they react if they need to earn points to advance past the group stage.

Chances of making it to Atlanta: Not good.


July 9: Trinidad vs. Guatemala, 7 p.m.

July 9: Mexico vs. Cuba, 9:30 p.m.

July 12: Trinidad vs. Cuba, 6:30 p.m.

July 12: Guatemala vs. Mexico, 9 p.m.

July 15: Cuba vs. Guatemala, 6 p.m.

July 15: Mexico vs. Trinidad, 8:30 p.m.


Quarterfinals in Baltimore in East Rutherford

July 18: First-place team from Group A vs. Third-place team from either Group B or C.

July 18: Second-place team from Goup A vs. First-place team from Group B.

July 19: First-place team from Group C vs. Third-place team from Group A or B.

July 19: Second-place team from Group C vs. Second-place team from Group B.



July 22: Georgia Dome.



July 26: Philadelphia.


Doug’s predictions to advance out of the group stage:

Group A: U.S., Panama and Honduras

Group B: Costa Rica, Canada and Jamaica.

Group C: Mexico and Trinidad.


Doug’s predictions to advance past the quarterfinals:

U.S. will defeat Jamaica

Costa Rica will defeat Panama

Mexico will defeat Honduras

Canada will defeat Trinidad


Doug’s predictions to win the semifinals:

U.S. and Mexico


Doug’s predictions to win the Gold Cup:


** Information for capsules came from a variety of sources, including MLSSoccer.com, NBCSports.com, CONCACAF.com.

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