The 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup -- the regional championship for North and Central American and the Caribbean -- kicks off tonight in Dallas. There are 12 teams playing in the group stage in 9 cities (including the first international games at Livestrong Sporting Park here in Kansas City).
The championship game is at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on June 25. The Gold Cup winner will represent CONCACAF in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil.
Fox Soccer will carry live coverage of all United States matches.
Many MLS squads -- including Kansas City -- will be depleted by this tournament. Here’s everything else you need to know about the Gold Cup.
Coach: Jose Manuel de la Torre
Players You’ve Heard Of: Rafa Marquez (New York), Javier Hernandez (Manchester United), Carlos Vela (Arsenal), Giovani Dos Santos* (Tottenham Hotspurs) and Andres Guardado (Deportivo La Coruna).
Has to be considered one of the co-favorites (with the United States). Will play in ton of "home" stadiums in Los Angeles and Dallas. Chicharito is probably the biggest name in the entire tournament.
Coach: Ricardo La Volpe
Players You’ve Heard Of: Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake) and Bryan Ruiz (FC Twente)
A darkhorse to make a run, Los Ticos have shown they can hang with the U.S. and Mexico in the past. Saborio and Ruiz are two of the most dangerous strikers in the Cup.
Coach: Ruben Israel
Players You’ve Heard Of: Arturo Alvarez (Real Salt Lake) and Steve Purdy (Portland)
In another group, maybe El Salvador could've had a chance. But getting out of the group stage against over Mexico or Costa Rica would take a minor miracle. Alvarez and Purdy are both former American youth national teamers.
Coach: Raul Gonzalez Triana
Players You’ve Heard Of: None
Just making it back to Cuba with all its players would be a tremendous start for Cuba -- defections are fairly common-place when a Cuban national team comes to the States.Schedule
• June 5: Costa Rica vs. Cuba, Cowboys Stadium (Dallas)
• June 5: Mexico vs. El Salvador, Cowboys Stadium (Dallas)
• June 9: Costa Rica vs. El Salvador, Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte)
• June 9: Cuba vs. Mexico, Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte)
• June 12: El Salvador vs. Cuba, Soldier Field (Chicago)
• June 12: Mexico vs. Costa Rica, Soldier Field (Chicago)Bottom line:
Give me Mexico to win it all, Costa Rica for second.
Coach: Ever Huga Almeida
Players You’ve Heard Of: Marco Pappa (Chicago Fire), Carlos Ruiz (Philadelphia), Guillermo Ramirez (Motagua)
Will go as far as Pappa and Ruiz can take them, which probably won't be very far. Many domestic-based players that you haven't heard of unless you follow Guatemala soccer.
Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez
Players You’ve Heard Of: Maynor Figueroa (Wigan), Wilson Palacios (Tottenham Hotspur), Carlos Costly (Atlas) Hendry Thomas (Wigan)
Los Catrachos will try to build on their 2010 World Cup spot by trying to do some damage in a group without a favorite. KC's Espinoza is often a substitute for Honduras.
Coach: Theodore Whitmore
Players You’ve Heard Of: Dane Richards (New York), Donovan Ricketts (Los Angeles), Jermaine Taylor (Houston), Shavar Thomas (Sporting Kansas City) and Je-Vaughn Watson (Houston)
Are probably the preliminary favorites to win this group, but will have to deal with the loss of injured Colorado Rapids players Omar Cummings and Tyrone Marshall who both withdrew. KC's Thomas often wears the captain's armband.
Coach: Mike Adams
Players You’ve Heard Of: Craig Rocastle (Kansas City)
The Spice Boys had a much better chance with New England's Shalrie Joseph involved. Sadly, he's not playing this tournament. Grenada needs Rocastle -- who only recently declared for the nation -- to step up to advance.Schedule:
• June 6: Jamaica vs. Grenada, Home Depot Center (Los Angeles)
• June 6: Honduras vs. Guatemala, Home Depot Center (Los Angeles)
• June 10: Jamaica vs. Guatemala, FIU Stadium (Miami)
• June 10: Grenada vs. Honduras, FIU Stadium (Miami)
• June 13: Guatemala vs. Grenada, Red Bull Arena (New York)
• June 13: Honduras vs. Jamaica, Red Bull Arena (New York)Bottom Line:
This group should produce three quarterfinalists -- if only because they are all so evenly matched they'll get points. I'll tip Jamaica to win, Honduras to place and Grenada to surprisingly show.
Coach: Stephen Hart
Players You’ve Heard Of: Julian de Guzman (Toronto), Dwayne De Rosario (New York), Terry Dunfield (Vancouver) Atiba Hutchinson (PSV) and Will Johnson (Real Salt Lake)
The Canucks won't top the Yanks in the group stage, but a second-place finish could serve them well as they'll play the Group B winner for a spot in the semi-finals.
Coach: Roger Salnot
Players You’ve Heard Of: Stephane Auvray (Kansas City)
Well, this is the World Cup for Guadeloupe -- the island nation is considered part of France. Maybe in a different group (say, Group B), they could've made some noise.
Coach: Julio Dely Valde
Players You’ve Heard Of: None
I've heard they are a solid team, but lack superstars. Most of their players are foreign-based (Guatemala, France, Poland, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Spain and Bolivia are all represented on their roster).
Coach: Bob Bradley
Players You’ve Heard Of: Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Carlos Bocanegra (St.-Etienne), Oguchi Onyewu (FC Twente), Michael Bradley (Aston Villa), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Jermaine Jones (Blackburn), Jozy Altidore (Bursaspor) and Tim Howard (Everton)
For the "other" co-favorites, anything less than another finals match-up with Mexico is a disaster. A solid squad filled with many World Cup regulars and a few up-and-comers (New York's Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream) are mixed with some last-chancers (Freddy Adu!, Robbie Rodgers and probably Jonathan Spector).Schedule
• June 7: Panama vs. Guadeloupe, Ford Field (Detroit)
• June 7: USA vs. Canada, Ford Field (Detroit)
• June 11: Canada vs. Guadeloupe, Raymond James Stadium (Tampa)
• June 11: USA vs. Panama, Raymond James Stadium (Tampa)
• June 14: Canada vs. Panama, Livestrong Sporting Park (Kansas City)
• June 14: Guadeloupe vs. USA, Livestrong Sporting Park (Kansas City)
I've got USA all the way, starting with a Group C victory. Canada will finish second; Guadeloupe earns the last remaining quarterfinals spot.
Predicting The Gold CupGroup A: Mexico, Costa Rica
Group B: Jamaica, Honduras, Grenada
United States, Canada, GuadeloupeQuarterfinals:
Honduras over Costa Rica (June 18 @ New Meadowlands Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ)
Mexico over Guadeloupe (June 18 @ New Meadowlands Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ)
Canada over Jamaica (June 19 @ RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.)
USA over Grenada (June 19 @ RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.)Semifinals:
Mexico over Honduras (June 22 @ Reliant Stadium, Houston)
USA over Canada (June 22 @ Reliant Stadium, Houston)Finals: USA over Mexico (June 25 @ The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.)