CONCACAF Gold Cup Final Preview
The United States and Panama will face off at Soldier Field this Sunday to decide the winner of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, a tournament which decides the best team in North America every two years and earns the winner a chance to play for the worldwide FIFA Confederations Cup.
After coming out victorious in semifinal matchups last night at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the US and Panama are preparing for the final. The winner of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup gets to play the winner of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup in a one-game playoff where the winner moves on to play in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. If the same team wins both Cups, no one-game playoff is necessary.
The eight-team Confederations Cup is represented all over the world by nations coming from their respective conferences. It is considered the biggest international soccer competition in the world besides the World Cup and is unique for its collection of the best of the best national teams.
The US has four all-time CONCACAF Gold Cup titles, most recently in 2005 and 2007. The American teams enjoy a home-field advantage because all 12 Gold Cups in history have had home games in the US, and the US has been the exclusive host in 10 of them. Panama has never won a Gold Cup although they did reach the final in 2005 before losing to the US in a penalty shootout and earned third place in 2011.
The US, out of Group C, swept the group stage with three wins, over Belize (6-1), Cuba (4-1), and Costa Rica (1-0). The knockout stage saw the US face two Central American opponents who they took care of pretty easily. They beat El Salvador 5-1 and Honduras 3-1. Chris Wondolowski and longtime US soccer star Landon Donovan are tied for the tournament lead with five goals and Joe Corona and Eddie Johnson have two goals each.
Panama, out of Group A, have embarked on a successful run that has become the storyline of this tournament. They impressively beat Mexico 2-1 to begin group stage play, beat Martinique 1-0, and tied Canada 0-0 to advance to the knockout stage. They easily beat Cuba 6-1 in the quarterfinals, but two-time defending Gold Cup champions Mexico stood in the way of the final. Amazingly, they beat Mexico 2-1 again thanks to a go-ahead Gabriel Torres goal in the 61st minute. Torres is also tied for the tournament lead with five goals and Blas Perez has three.
The perennial powerhouse American team will host the upstart Panamanians Sunday at 3 PM CT. This is a rare international soccer event you will not want to miss with our national team on the brink of a major title!
Photo Source: Patrick Semansky/AP