By Paul Nicholson at the Allianz Field, Saint Paul, Minnesota
June 17 – When the US kick off their Gold Cup campaign against Guyana at the Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minnesota, tomorrow (Tuesday) they will be marking the competitive start of a new era for the team under Gregg Berhalter.
The attention on their performance as they defend their Gold Cup title will be inevitably intense, especially with their women’s team currently sweeping all before them in France at the Women’s World Cup, and their U-20s returning from a strong run in their world Cup in Poland where they were just edged out in the quarter finals by a physically powerful Ecuador.
US Soccer Federation (USSF) president, Carlos Cordeiro, said: “We have an expectation to win every Gold Cup, this is no different. What is different is that we have a new coach, general manager and leadership and a new style of play.”
“This is part of a journey towards qualifying for Qatar 2022 (the US missed out on Russia 2018) and then beyond to 2026. All these players (at the Gold Cup) and hopefully a number of U-20s and U-23s will be contending for places. We have a talented group of younger players and a strong group of coaches under the general management.”
The US has seen a huge uptick in interest in the national game and the sport in general. For the first time the MLS has suspended league play to allow for the Gold Cup to be the focus – eight games are being played at MLS stadia.
“There has been an explosion of interest in soccer at all levels in the US and with greater participation there is a heightened expectation,” said Cordeiro.
The Gold Cup is the first major tournament to be played in the US following the three-nation bid (with Mexico and Canada) that won the hosting rights to the 2026 World Cup. It is already capturing the imagination of fans in the US with a number of venues reporting sell outs and high ticket demand – Saint Paul for the US opener tomorrow night is sold out.
It also showcases the extraordinary depth of major facilities the US has for staging big events. There are 15 different stadia in the US that are hosting Gold Cup games.
The first anniversary of winning the 2026 World Cup bid has just passed and is already providing a legacy in terms of interest, and in many ways the Gold Cup is the first beneficiary of the extra attention.
“There is a lot excitement for the highest level of competitive soccer in the US,” said Cordeiro. “You can see this in the ticket sales and the TV interest. It reflects a greater awareness of the sport in the country. But we are also at the beginning of a long road back to regaining the confidence of our fans.”
That competitive road begins in Saint Paul Tuesday, and if everything goes well for the US, Guyana could potentially find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time – as Thailand did last week when they came up against the US Women’s team in France.
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