Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Gold Cup or Copa America?

A lot of questions are going around on which tournament the USMNT should focus on this summer, the CONCACAF Gold Cup or the CONMEBOL Copa America. Should the USMNT send it’s ‘A Team’ to the Copa or the Gold Cup? I honestly think that the question is far more complex than just dealing with the two 2007 summer tournaments, as the decision could affect the USMNT development all the way to 2010. As the USMNT opens up camp on Thursday, I figured I would cover several of the topics surrounding the squad.

With the final match of the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup taking place on Sunday, June 24th and the opening match of the CONMBEOL Copa America scheduled for the 26th, the USSF has to decide if they will be using two squads or if they will be using one strong squad and one under strength squad for either tournament. The logic says that you cannot send the same squad to both, as the Euro based players’ need some type of rest and the MLS players will be gone from their clubs for about 8 or 9 weeks, depending on the build up to the Gold Cup.

It is my opinion that the USSF should focus its efforts on retaining the CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship. Send an under strength squad or a squad of newer guys to the Copa America. Bora Milutinovic did that in 1993 when the USSF first sent a squad down there. Having a greener squad take part in the Copa would be a far greater asset down the road than a lot of people want to accept.

I say that the USSF should focus on the CONCACAF Gold Cup because of two reasons, regional supremacy and the build up for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The regional supremacy issue is very simple; we are hosting the tournament, so we should win it. We, along with Mexico, are the two big fish in the very little pond, and because of that standing, we should always be meeting each other in the finals. It goes farther than just the Gold Cup. The 2007 Gold Cup champion gets a ticket to the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, which will be held in South Africa, as a dry run for the 2010 host nation. As the USA and Mexico are the biggest fish in the small CONCACAF pond, CONCACAF should never be represented by any other nation other than Mexico or the USA. As I am a USMNT supporter, and don’t particularly like the Mexican team, I want the USA to win the Gold Cup to ensure that they represent CONCACAF at the Confederations Cup.

The second reason for my suggestion in sending the stronger team to the Gold Cup is to ensure that the USMNT has every available chance for proper international team development between 2007 and 2010. Because we already know that we will be playing in the Gold Cup and the Copa America in 2007, I feel that the best thing for the development towards succeeding in the 2010 World Cup is to play in as many international tournaments as it is possible between 2007 and 2010. The general schedule for the next three years, building up to the World Cup, looks something like this:

- CONMEBOL Copa America

- World Cup Qualifying starts.

- CONCACAF Gold Cup?
- CONMEBOL Copa America?
- FIFA Confederations Cup
- World Cup Qualifying ends

As we already know that we have two tournaments this year, and just World Cup qualifying scheduled for 2008, we should definitely be looking ahead towards 2009. As we should assume that CONCACAF will again schedule the Gold Cup and hold it in the USA again, we have a tournament, but one that as we all agree on, doesn't really test our team. No one knows if CONMEBOL will invite us to the 2009 Copa America (or if they will even hold one), as the agreement between CONCACAF and CONMEBOl expires this year, this leaves us with the Confederations Cup as the only other tournament that year. Granted we will still have World Cup Qualifying, we should look towards ensuring that we will have a tournament environment to play in.

Since we know that in order to guarantee that we take part in two tournaments in 2009, we have to win the Gold Cup in 2007, which would require us to focus on the Gold Cup instead of the Copa. If we win the 2007 Gold Cup, we have a greater chance for player development in the next three years. Getting as many chances for international tournaments, which we have a deficiency in, would decrease the chances our guys would go into the first match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and get stage fright or suddenly become timid on the international stage, which I fear was a major problem in Germany last year.


Blogger D said...

I agree with much of this logic. I think I voiced an argument similar to Lifton right after WC06, but failed to bring as much intelligence to the table as you have done here.

9:55 AM  

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