The next 2 World Cup qualifing tournaments were played in 1985 and 1989. This qualifing tournament was much fairer. There was no fixed venue since these games were home and away series. Canada won the World Cup qualifing tournament (home and away) in 1985 and Costa Rica won in 1989. Soccer however was gaining huge popularity throughout the world and the CONCACAF teams were not keeping pace. Something had to be done.
The First Gold Cup (Gold Cup 1991)
Mexico’s Revenge (Gold Cup 1993)
The Brazilian Draw (Gold Cup 1996) The World Cup USA 94 was held in America and it was very successful. The next installment of the Gold Cup 1996 was very contentious. The confederation was very concerned that any tournament would be lacking in stature compared to the World Cup status. They wanted fans to attend and they did not want a drop off after the first 2 Gold Cups. The decision was made to invite the World Cup Champions Brazil to participate. Brazil could legitimize any tournament and they had fans everywhere during the World Cup. The confederation wanted Brazil fans to pack their stadium for the Gold Cup.
“Landmark Edition” (Gold Cup 1998)
Exotic guest teams! (Gold Cup 2000) The confederation wanted to expand the tournament and believed the fans base was there after the first 4 Gold Cups. They believed they had the teams in CONCACAF to draw attention as one of the top global tournaments. They "The 1998 Gold Cup was a landmark edition firmly establishing the tournament as one of the major competitions in the world," said Confederation President Jack Warner. There was an entirely new format in 2000 which increasing participation to 12 nations. CONCACAF still only fielded 9 CONCACAF nations and 3 exotic guest teams. The guest teams consisted of Columbia, Peru from CONMEBOL and Korean Republic. This gave the Gold Cup a real international flavor to it. The Korean Republic thought the Gold Cup would be an invaluable experience since they were to co-hosting the next World Cup 2002. All guest teams would be bring good quality teams. This format still 3 team groups but a 4th group was added with the extra teams. Two groups played at same location for a good reason. Each game would be a double header to ensure big crowds. The fans could see 2 games from 2 different groups. This also ensured that only 4 teams would be dropped before the knockout round. To me this guaranteed that the US or Mexico was sure to get through to the knock out stage even with guest teams. This format was good for the teams that made the knock out stage but was awful for teams that got knocked out. This format could only have your team playing 2 games in your group and you would be done for another 2 years. To me the most exciting time is in the group play. There is much discussion before play begins. These are always the talk of the “Group of Death” in the World Cup and CONCACAF could have its own “Group of Death” that could be talked about.
Downward trend (Gold Cup 2002) CONCACAF wanted to avoid a guest team from knocking either Mexico or the Yanks out in 2002. A simple solution for the 2002 edition was to reduce the guest teams and increase the Caribbean nations. They increased the CONCACAF field to 10 teams (4 Caribbean) with 2 guest teams, Ecuador and Korean Republic. The format stayed the same, 3 locations for group play to ensure large crowds. Attendance was ok until Trinidad & Tobago vs. Martinique with Canada vs. Ecuador was the double header. Only 3,827 turned out for this double header. There was no following for Caribbean teams or the guest team and Canada once again was involved in setting low attendance record.
Relying on Mexico (Gold 2003) CONCACAF had developed an image and attendance problem with the last 2 installments of the Gold Cup. The image they were suffering from was so called “lesser” marketable teams were going deep in the tournament. These teams did not have the fan base as other top teams and thus the attendance and interest was suffering. The Gold Cup wanted to regain it’s stature that was built up before 2000 and 2002 Gold Cups.
Northern Markets and 4 team groups (Gold Cup 2005)
The Gold Cup 2005 edition was a very ambitious undertaking for the confederation. This would be the first time the locations would increase from 3 to a whopping 7 venues. The venues consisted of Carson California Home Depot Center, LA Memorial Coliseum, Houston’s Reliant Stadium and the ever popular Miami Florida’s Orange Bowl. The northern markets of Seattle, New England and New York fans were eager to show that they like soccer too. These northern areas were huge markets to be tapped and officials were right. This also made the tournament a national event connecting both the East and West coast with games.
The play: Honduras came out on top in Group A in Miami with Panama, Columbia and T&T. Group B started in Seattle than moved to the East Coast Foxborough, Ma. Group B was a tie between Costa Rica and the Yanks with 7 points apiece. Mexico won Group C with South Africa, Jamaica and Guatemala. They started in Carson then moves to LA California.
The knockout round had (QF=Col 2:1 Mex, Pan 5:3 S Africa(penalty kicks), USA 3:1 Jam, Hon 3:2 CRC). Mexico again loses in the quarter finals however this time the attendance did not suffer as much. Fans from other national teams were building and they turned out to support their team. Panama went from minnow to instant titans when they knocked off South Africa in the quarter finals and then beat Columbia in the Semi-finals to rid the Final of any guest team.(Semi-F Pan 3:2 Col, USA 2:1 Hon ). The team that was waiting for them was the King Pin… USA. Panama shut the Yanks out in regulation before succumbing to penalty kicks in the Final. Louis Tejada (Pan) received MVP honors for his outstanding play for Panama. Panama showed the depth of CONCACAF that they too could play with the big boys and knock them out in a major international tourney. The story for Warner however was the total attendance which skyrockets to over 800,000. The confederation had a good financial decision to increase the venues to 7. Many CONCACAF teams have numerous fans living throughout America. These 7 venues totaled over (32,000 per match). They witnessed many exciting and entertaining matches by doubling the previous edition.
Increase Media Coverage (Gold Cup 2007)
The 2007 edition kept the field of 3 groups with 4 teams. It worked great in 2005 so why change it. The only tweak was the dropping guest teams. The national teams consisted entirely of CONCACAF teams in the 2007 Gold Cup. This was a great decision by the federation to give 12 national teams a chance to participate in their own regional Championship. The winner would represent CONCACAF for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. All CONCACAF teams would be bringing their best senior team to play. The quality of play was not compromised.
Group play was the tightest it has even been. Canada’s Julian De Guzman received MVP honors for his outstanding play that helped Canada out of the tightest Group A. They were followed closely by Costa Rica, Guadeloupe and Haiti. Group B started in Carson, California then moved to Gillette Stadium in New England. This group had The Yanks (host) continued their dominance in group play by beating Guatemala, El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago. It was the Yanks and the Guatemala who made the knockout round. Group C started at Giants Stadium, NY then moved to Reliant Stadium in Houston. Honduras won the hardest group consisting of Mexico, Panama and Cuba. (The Cuban team folded after players defected.) Attendance increases by breaking up group play into 2 venues and a quarter final. The fan only has 2 chances to see his/her national team play before they move on. There were many stories to follow in Gold Cup 2007. Guadeloupe had a fairy tale ride to the semi-finals. This was a great story of the little island battling and beating the powerhouses of CONCACAF. Guadeloupe’s great run will be talked about in future years by football enthusiasts. This is what the Gold Cup needs. A rich history of CONCACAF teams (not guest teams) upsetting the powers of CONCACAF. Then there were the continuous stories about the turmoil in the Mexican locker room. The Media attention Mexico’s national team garners is astonishing. Then there also were many questionable calls by the referees where Panama, Costa Rica and Canada were on the unfavorable end and Mexico and the USA benefited. Quarter Finals The US held on the beat a swift Panama team. Canada pounded Guatemala, Mexico scored in extra time in a very physical game against Costa Rica, and Guadeloupe score 2 early goals to overcome the powerful Honduras side.(USA 2:1 Pan, Can 3:0 Guatemala, Mex 1:0 CRC added time, Guadeloupe 2:1 Honduras.) The Semi Final were 2 excellent games. The USA held on to beat a well organized Canada team, while Pavel Pardo’s 30 yard strike eliminated upstart Guadeloupe. (USA 2:1 Mex.) The final was a wide open, entertaining game and drew in a 2.5 national rating on Univision. That translates to 2.83 Million households, nearly double the 1.48 million homes that watched the 2005 Gold Cup final. The attendance also increased 15% to (36,859 per match). The 2007 Gold Cup was considered one of the best Gold Cup ever with attendance, marketability, media coverage and the play on the field.
 Frank Dell’Apa; Boston Globe June 26, 2007