The draws for both Copa America and the CONCACAF Gold Cup have both been made and neither is particularly favorable to the United States. The same can be said for US U-20 team in the U-20 World Cup, where the American kids have been grouped with Brazil and South Korea.
While The US should advance at the Gold Cup simply because the event is being held in the United States, I am not sure that the US will win the event and qualify for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, a stated goal of US Soccer. Guatemala, El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago are in the US’ group and chances are very good that full points will not be achieved from those three group matches.
Obviously the US is the favorite to win the Gold Cup especially considering the poor run Mexico has had on American soil of late. However with US Soccer officials from President Sunil Gulati to Coach Bob Bradley making it clear that the Gold Cup is the biggest event the National Team plays in outside of the World Cup, anything short of a title will be a devastating blow to the psyche of a national program still smarting from the first round exit at Germany 2006.
Four days after the Gold Cup final in Chicago, the US opens Copa America in Maraciabo against mighty Argentina. Based on Coach Bob Bradley’s statement of March 5th that it will be easier to get releases for European based players from their clubs for Gold Cup and that winning our confederation is the top priority of US Soccer, expect to see a “B” team made up mostly of MLS players taking on the likes of Saviola, Riquelme and Tevez. Following what is sure to be a debacle against Argentina the US will face Paraguay and Columbia. Chances of advancement especially with an MLS based “B” team are highly unlikely. Copa America participation is a huge opportunity for the US team, an opportunity many supporters of the program have been clamoring for since 1995, the last time the US participated in the Copa. Sunil Gulati unlike his predecessors smartly accepted the invite to Copa, but unfortunately the event seems to have been de-emphasized.
While sending an MLS based team to Copa America does have its benefits in that it will help to harden some of the young up and coming talents currently playing in MLS. Nonetheless, it is obvious that the scheduling conflict of the two events has forced US Soccer to emphasize the Gold Cup over Copa America, something I find very difficult to understand.
In reality, the US player pool is now deep enough to field a capable team in both events. In the upcoming days I’ll be posting what I feel should be the selected squad for the US in both events, squads that will maximize the potential for player development and attempting to have a successful run at both events.