No matter how hot it gets in New York City, it never really feels like summer until the Fourth of July. In odd-numbered years, we get the added bonus of the Gold Cup, which is definitely the most fun international soccer tournament to watch if you're a tried and true soccer nerd.
Because of the high number of MLS players competing in the Gold Cup, the league takes a break during this tournament. But don't fret! You're encouraged to use the extra time to soak up every minute of this wonderful tournament as you possibly can. Why? Well...
When else can you watch teams like Martinique, French Guiana, Curacao, El Salvador, and Nicaragua take on Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Jamaica, and the United States? Nowhere. That's the magic of the Gold Cup.
Every two years, this tournament decides the champion of the CONCACAF region, and it's never short on its share of surprises.
The twelve squads are split up into three groups of four, with the top two teams from each group and the two best third-place finishers reaching the quarterfinals.
Let's take a look at those groups:
GROUP A: Honduras, Costa Rica, Canada, French Guiana
GROUP B: United States, Panama, Martinique, Nicaragua
Group C: Mexico, Jamaica, El Salvador, Curacao
NYCFC Players Will Compete
Sean Johnson: USA
Sean Johnson headlines the crop of NYCFC players who will try to make their marks at the Gold Cup. The goalkeeper will be looking to earn his first USA minutes since helping the United States win the Gold Cup back in 2013 with a shutout over Costa Rica in the group stage. Johnson is finally back on Bruce Arena's radar since reinvigorating his career in New York City and anchoring one of the best defenses in the league, and if his upward trajectory continues, big things are in store for him and the U.S. Men's National Team this summer.
NYCFC midfielder Tommy McNamara was called up to the 40-man provisional roster for the United States, and could be in line for a call into the squad after the conclusion of the group stage, when teams are allowed to make up to six changes to their 23-man tournament rosters.
United States Group Stage Schedule:
Saturday, July 8th 4:30 PM ET vs. Panama
Wednesday, July 12th 8:30 PM ET vs. Martinique
Saturday, July 15th 7:00 PM ET vs. Nicaragua
Rodney Wallace: Costa Rica
NYCFC's own Rodney Wallace will headline a Costa Rican squad that is always in contention to win this tournament. They followed up a quarterfinal run at the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a disappointing loss to Mexico after extra time in the quarterfinals of the 2015 Gold Cup. Needless to say, Los Ticos will be looking for revenge, and are expecting big things from their first-choice squad, which features Arsenal's Joel Campbell and Sporting Lisbon's Bryan Oviedo. Ronald Matarrita was set to join his NYCFC teammate Wallace on the squad as well, until a broken metatarsal sidelined him for the next three to four months.
Costa Rica Group Stage Schedule:
Friday, July 7th 9:00 PM ET vs. Honduras
Tuesday, July 11th 7:30 PM ET vs. Canada
Friday, July 14th 7:30 PM ET vs. French Guiana
Miguel Camargo: Panama
Miguel Camargo will be repping NYCFC as well! His Panama squad features quite a few MLSers, and they'll be strong favorites to advance out of Group B alongside the United States. The 24-year old has 13 caps already for Panama, and a strong showing at the Gold Cup could force Head Coach Hernan Dario Gomez to hand him the keys to the midfield for the foreseeable future. Once the knockout rounds begin, Panama is a wild card capable of beating just about any team in this tournament. In fact, they beat the United States to claim the bronze medal back in 2015.
Panama Group Stage Schedule:
Saturday, July 8th 4:30 PM ET vs. United States
Wednesday July 12th 6:30 PM ET vs. Nicaragua
Saturday July 15th 4:30 PM ET vs. Martinique
The two favorites to win the Gold Cup are the United States, who are hosting this fine tournament, and Mexico. However, both of these nations will be fielding "B-teams" to give their best players a chance to rest a little bit before MLS action really ramps up this summer, European club seasons start up, and the final four matches of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying take place. With so many new faces in these teams, there's more than enough #narrative to go around.
The USA, for example, are using this tournament to identify players that could make a push for one of the 23 spots available for their 2018 FIFA World Cup roster. Bruce Arena says he's hoping for "four or five" players to stand out.
Among his squad, he has plenty of new faces, including Dom Dwyer, who gianed his U.S. citizenship this past spring after lighting up MLS to the tune of 57 goals in 128 appearances for Sporting KC, and a host of MLS youngsters like Cristian Roldan, Kelyn Rowe, and Kellyn Acosta.
Joining them are names like Eric Lichaj and attacking midfielder Joe Corona, who is back in the USA squad for the first time since 2015.
Juan Agudelo is perhaps the biggest x-factor in this category. The New England Revolution forward's career is once again on the upswing after a tough few years in Europe. This tournament could be his big chance to finally cement himself as a regular for the USA, which he's been unable to do during the years since he scored in his debut at the age of 17.
Mexico are in a similar situation since their "A-team" just returned from a trip to the semifinals of the Confederations Cup, and just finished up their campaign with an appearance in the 3rd-place match this past Sunday. El Tri will be rolling out a squad made up entirely of players based in Liga MX. Just like Bruce Arena, head coach Juan Carlos Osorio will undoubtedly be using this tournament to evaluate breakout talent to work into his World Cup quest.
The Gold Cup is approaching fast. The opening match kicks off on July 7th at 7:00 PM ET between Canada and French Guiana. This weekend's other must-watch matches include Honduras vs. Costa Rica, which starts just two hours after the tournament's opener, United States vs. Panama, which could potentially feature a battle between two NYCFC players (Saturday, 4:30 PM ET), and Mexico vs. El Salvador (Sunday, 9:00 PM ET).
Don't miss 'em, because these teams are all in contention to bring home the Gold... the Gold Cup, that is.
And don't worry, we'll be keeping a close eye on our NYCFC boys and letting you know how they fare.