Gold Cup: U.S. to face Canada; Mexico in Group A

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The United States will face Canada, Martinique and a team to be determined in Group B of the 2021 Gold Cup after the tournament draw was completed in Miami on Monday.

Reigning champions Mexico, the top-seeded team in Group A, were placed with El Salvador, Curacao and another team to be determined via a preliminary tournament.

The U.S. and Canada most recently squared off in the CONCACAF Nations League with each team winning on home soil. The U.S. has also met Martinique twice in previous Gold Cups, with the most recent result a 3-2 U.S. win in 2017.

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“I think it’s a strong group,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said immediately following the draw. “Canada has a great generation of players coming through. I think it’s going to be a great, competitive match. The other opponents, we’ll see who gets in the fourth spot, but it’s definitely a good group.”

The Gold Cup will be held from July 10 through Aug. 1, with the venues still to be announced.

The remaining groups are comprised of Costa Rica, Jamaica, Suriname and a team to be determined in Group C. Group D consists of Honduras, Panama, Grenada and guests Qatar.

The matchups making up the qualifying tournament were also announced.

Cuba will play French Guiana with the winner taking on the team that triumphs in the matchup between Trinidad & Tobago and Montserrat. That team will be placed in Group A.

Haiti will play. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with the winner squaring off against the winner of Bermuda and Barbados. The team that emerges from that quartet will be placed in Group B with the U.S.

The winner of Guatemala and Guyana will take on the team that emerges from the match featuring Guadeloupe and the Bahamas. The team that emerges from that foursome will be placed in Group C.

El Tri manager Tata Martino has noted how players from the region are beginning to earn spots with some of the world’s biggest clubs, including Canada’s Alphonso Davies with Bayern Munich and the U.S.’s Weston McKennie with Juventus. That said, he sees the Mexico-U.S. duopoly continuing.

“We can’t deny what is happening with players that the United States have playing in Europe and in the best clubs, it is a reality,” Martino said on Monday.

“It’s also true that we should have the obligation to go far and try to repeat [the victory] like last year. I think that two things are true: Mexico has the obligation and that the United States has a very good generation of young players that play in Europe.

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Matteo Bonetti says USMNT’s Weston McKennie needs to build on his first Juve game to become a regular in the lineup.

“It’s traditionally been Mexico and the United States starting out as the favorites for this competition for many years. For next year, I don’t think that will change. We recognize the important players that the United States have, as well as other national teams; Canada has a Champions League winner, there are a lot of national teams that are doing well. It’s clear that recently the United States have had four or five boys that have transferred or who have played in the best competitions at club level.”

Given the delays brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 is shaping up to crowded with events, especially for the U.S. In addition to the Gold Cup in July, there’s the final stages of the CONCACAF Nations League in June, possibly the Olympic Games in July and August, as well as World Cup qualifying starting in September.

While Berhalter noted that the clubs are required to release players for the Gold Cup, the congested schedule means he’ll likely have to pick and choose how to best allocate his resources.

“You know whenever the release date is — maybe June 28 — you know the clubs are obligated to release the players to us. This represents more than that,” he said.

“It represents relationships and we’re in communication and really talking to the clubs and trying to piece together what makes most sense for the player. If I asked you, ‘Is it reasonable for a player to play a full season. Then go to Nations League, then go to Gold Cup, then start preseason again without a break?’ You know, it’s probably not reasonable for that.

“So we’re gonna have to juggle the squad a little bit. We’re going to still be competing for trophies; but there will be a certain amount of juggling we need to do.”