INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Groups for the 2023 Gold Cup were drawn Friday at SoFi Stadium, which will be the host venue for the tournament's final on July 16.
The United States is looking to become the first repeat winner since Mexico in 2009 and 2011. The other nations will be vying to disrupt the flow and have a non-USA versus Mexico final for the first time since 2017.
“The region itself is getting stronger. We just want to keep improving,” said current USMNT head coach Anthony Hudson. “The benchmark for us is winning this again.”
Since the tournament launched in 1991, there has been only one year that didn’t include either USA or Mexico in the final. When Canada beat Colombia in 2000, CONCACAF was much different. As much as the USMNT and El Tri traditionally rule, the neighbors up north will for sure have something to say. The Canadians snapped their 36-year World Cup drought in 2022, and despite disappointing results in Qatar, learned a lot from the experience. Plus, the manner in which they ran through qualifying is more of what to expect from the young developing squad.
“In World Cup qualifying when you go unbeaten against the U.S. and Mexico, you beat both of those teams and take valuable away points, you know where you’re at as a team,” said head coach John Herdman after the draw at SoFi Stadium. “Qualitatively we know the U.S. are maybe $200 million more value than us, they have more players playing in top leagues around the world, but we got that little bit of X factor and chip on our shoulder.”
The timing of this summer tournament is always a challenge, and the schedule being so cluttered, especially coming off a World Cup in December, can be tough in terms of constructing a roster. To make matters worse, USA, Mexico, Canada and Panama will be battling it out for the CONCACAF Nations League title simultaneously as the Gold Cup preliminary rounds begin.
It’s a lot of soccer in a time when players typically expect time off.
For Hudson and the USMNT, the conversations have already started on how to create the perfect blend of guys who play abroad and domestically. Mexico and Diego Cocca are in a bit of a different situation because this is a fresh start for El Tri following a distasteful end to the Gerardo “Tata” Martino era. Nations League and Gold Cup provide the new head coach a perfect opportunity to make a statement, or the exact opposite can occur. If you had to pick who is under the most pressure, Mexico certainly wins that category.
And Canada sees an opening to establish dominance in the region.
“In CONCACAF we have expectations on ourselves first, then there’s expectations that we should be able to compete with the best here,” Herdman said. “And that’s our plan.”
Not only do they want to compete with the best, they want to be that.
“We got to the semifinals last time we were here. It was a 99th minute winner from Mexico that knocked us out,” said Herdman about the Gold Cup. “These players every year want to get one better, so one better would be getting to the Final. We'll embrace that.”
2023 Gold Cup groups
Winner prelim 9
Winner prelim 8
Winner prelim 7
The action will get started on June 16 as 12 teams will face each other in two preliminary rounds to fill three spots in the group stage.
Round 1 - June 16 & 17
Prelim 1: Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guadeloupe
Prelim 2: Martinique vs. St. Lucia
Prelim 3: Curaçao vs. St. Kitts & Nevis
Prelim 4: French Guiana vs. Sint Maarten
Prelim 5: Suriname vs. Puerto Rico
Prelim 6: Guyana vs. Grenada
Round 2 - June 20
Prelim 7: Winner of Prelim 1 vs. Winner of Prelim 6
Prelim 8: Winner of Prelim 2 vs. Winner of Prelim 5
Prelim 9: Winner of Prelim 3 vs. Winner of Prelim 4
Fifteen stadiums in over 14 cities will host the games. The full schedule will be announced in the coming days.