The venues for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup are set — 13 U.S. locations in all four time zones. Eight venues are large capacity, five are small to medium. Five stadiums utilize artificial turf, raising the question of whether to play on high-grade plastic or temporary natural grass.
Washington’s RFK Stadium submitted a bid but was not chosen. Instead, CONCACAF selected Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, home of the NFL’s Ravens. RFK hosted a 2009 group doubleheader (United States vs. Honduras and Haiti vs. Grenada) and a 2011 quarterfinal doubleheader (USA vs. Jamaica and Panama vs. El Salvador). Baltimore is hosting for the first time.
The group draw and specific match locations for the July 7-28 tournament will be determined in mid to late March.
Eleven of the 12 teams are set: USA, Mexico, Canada, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Belize, Cuba, Haiti, Martinique, and Trindad and Tobago. The last slot will go to Panama or Guatemala (to be determined Friday in the Copa Centroamericana fifth-place match in Costa Rica).
THE GOLD CUP VENUES
Georgia Dome, Atlanta (artificial turf)
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore (artificial turf)
Solider Field, Chicago
Cowboys Stadium, Dallas (artificial turf)
Sports Authority Field, Denver
Rose Bowl, Pasadena
Sun Life Stadium, Miami
CenturyLink Field, Seattle (artificial turf)
Rentschler Field, Hartford
BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston
Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.
Jeld-Wen Field, Portland, Ore. (artificial turf)
Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah
Mexico is easily the biggest draw in the tournament, even outside of Mexico, and is certain to perform in large stadiums only. The United States, my guess, would play at one smaller venue and two large facilities in group play.
Should we read these venue choices into the World Cup qualifying decisions for the two U.S. matches in June? Not necessarily. This is a CONCACAF tournament, not a USSF event. The USSF selects the home qualifying venues. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sporting Park in Kansas City — which is not a Gold Cup venue — receive one of the summer qualifiers.
Where will the championship match take place? Soldier Field is my early favorite. The previous three tournaments culminated at the Rose Bowl (2011), Giants Stadium (2009) and Soldier Field (2007). The Chicago site does not have any scheduling conflicts between Bon Jovi on July 12 and Taylor Swift on Aug. 10.
As for roster strength, Mexico will have just completed the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil and seems certain to bring a secondary squad. The U.S. personnel might end up being a mix of young and older players. The main group will have played three qualifiers in June and many players will need time-off before reporting to their clubs.
The winner of the 2013 Gold Cup does not advance to the next Confederations Cup. It’s the 2015 tournament that will determine the ’17 representative in Russia.