The Gold Cup will announce the groups this Tuesday. The question will be who will be in what group which is difficult to guess. What is harder to determine is who will play who.
Group A plays at 3 of the biggest venues. They start at Dallas Texas, then move to Charlotte (73.7k) and finish in Chicago’s Soldiers Field (61.5k). This group will have Mexico. Why …well Warner will want to maximize revenue and there is only one nation that can fill the big stadiums in CONCACAF. That team is Mexico. Mexico filled Dallas Stadium with over 80k in the 2009 Gold Cup. Charlotte NC is a new venue to the Gold Cup however not to the Hispanic community. In March 2010 Mexico played Iceland in a meaningless game. There were over 55,000 pre-sold tickets for this game. Charlotte is proven with the Mexican national team. The last group game is in Chicago. Soldiers field was packed for the 2007 Gold Cup Final. This is also a proven lock to have a great turn out. This is clearly Mexico’s group. The question is who else will be group with them.
Group B is Canada group but because they are not from the Caribbean or Central America. Both of these regions have just finished the Caribbean Cup and the Central American Cup so officials want to give them new opponents to keep it interesting. Since Mexico has group A and the USA will have Group C the question is who goes into Group B with Canada. The next best teams in CONCACAF in MHO are Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama and Jamaica. Picking from these teams there is only one who has the fan support to pack the stadiums and that country is Honduras. Honduras is a good pick since Costa Rica has been group with Canada for the last 5 out of 6 Gold Cups. Honduras is not a lock but a good bet. This group starts in the very popular Home Depot Center, then travels to Miami than wraps up at Red Bull Arena in New York. Honduras fans are popular in LA and NY. Jamaica is a good bet since Miami fans are very visible in Miami. Jamaica also makes this group very competitive. Jamaica are the Caribbean Champs are and play a very entertaining style of play. Since this group have the largest MLS stadiums in HDC and Red Bull arena these will be great venues for this group.
Group C is the USA group. Why…because USA soccer likes to move the national team around the country. Detroit, Tampa and KC will all be new to the Gold Cup. Placing the yanks here should secure good crowds. Last Gold Cup the yanks had 2 good crowds when they played good competition. However when the yanks played the small Caribbean nation of Grenada only 15,387 turned off for this 4-0 shellacking. This game was played in the best MLS attendance venue Seattle’s Quest field. Sam’s army was not interested in this weaker opponent. This Gold Cup has a small stadium (KC @ 18.5k) to make sure there is a full house when the yanks play a Caribbean nation. So the question is who else to group with the yanks. If Honduras goes to group B that leaves Costa Rica and Panama as the next best opponents. However El Salvador and Guatemala have much better fans to help the yanks in the other venues. This will be a toss up. The yanks will be grouped with either El Salvador or Guatemala help with attendance. The question is which one of the Big 3 (Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras) from Central America will be group with them. It is my inclination to think Honduras will go to Group B and the yanks will get Panama since Panama was group with Mexico last Gold Cup. Panama will provide a challenger for the group. Then throw in El Sal or Guatemala for attendance. The last team will be a Caribbean nation. The other pick (el Sal or Guatemala) will help Mexico is the big venues for fan support. This leaves Cuba as a good Caribbean nation who also has fan support. Their biggest fans are in Miami but I think they will group with the yanks in group C to full the big stadiums.
So my guess to the groups are this
Group A Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Grenada
Group B Canada, Honduras, Jamaica, Guadeloupe.
Group C USA, Panama, Guatemala and Cuba
This group has a good mix up the 3 regions of CONCACAF. They also have s good distribution of good teams to keep each group competitive. Most importantly it breaks up the nations that have good fans support into different groups. Gold Cup officials want sold out venues and these group will come close to that..
Who do you want to see in each group?