The United States men’s national team learned the identity of two of its three group stage opponents at the 2022 CONCACAF Gold Cup, assuming the biannual regional championship tournament goes ahead next summer as scheduled in the age of COVID-19.
The U.S. will meet northern neighbor Canada and the island nation of Martinique in the first round of the Gold Cup. It’s final Group B foe will be one of Barbados, Bermuda, Haiti or St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
As it stands, the Gold Cup is scheduled to run from July 10 to Aug. 1 2021. Nothing is set in stone when it comes to international sports these days, though. The impact of the novel coronavirus has already pushed back World Cup qualifying matches in North and Central America and the Caribbean, the region’s Miami-based governing body announced earlier this month. There are currently not enough windows in FIFA’s international match calendar to accommodate those games along with the Gold Cup and Nations League, a new event that kicked off last year.
The USMNT met Canada’s improving squad twice last fall in the Nations League. Last October in Toronto, the Americans lost a match to Les Rouges for the first time in almost 34 years. The U.S. returned the favor the following month in Florida, beating Alphonso Davies-led Canada 4-1, but a budding rivalry was born. Gregg Berhalter’s side went on to advance to the Nations League semifinals, which have been rescheduled for June of next year, adding to the scheduling crush. The U.S. is also hoping to participate in next summer’s Olympics in Tokyo after missing out on the last two Summer Games.
“That match means a lot to our players,” Canadian coach John Herdman said of the U.S. tile after the draw, which was the first in the Gold Cup’s history. (In the previous 15 editions of the event, participating teams were assigned groups by CONCACAF.)
“They kicked our butt up in Toronto and we beat them pretty good in Orlando,” Berhalter said of Canada. “We’re looking forward to playing them in the Gold Cup because we know it’s going to be a really competitive game.”
As for how he’s going to balance his player pool with the Gold Cup, Nations League, Olympics and all-important World Cup qualifiers all happening around the same time, entirely separate rosters could be summoned for one or more of those competitions. The only thing that’s certain is that after failing to make the 2018 World Cup, program headliners like Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic and Juventus’ Weston McKennie will be prioritized for the qualifiers.
“By and large, we want to make really good decisions to make sure every team has both the opportunity to win a trophy, and we’re also mindful of [how much work] the players have been doing,” Berhalter said.
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