CONCACAF released the schedule for the 2013 Gold Cup, which will begin with a doubleheader at the Rose Bowl on Sunday, July 7 and run through Sunday, July 28 when the championship match will take place at Soldier Field.
Mexico returns to defend its 2011 title. Led by a pair of goals by Pablo Barrera, El Tri defeated the United States, 4-2, in the 2011 final after the Americans had built an early 2-0 lead, and a rematch this summer wouldn't be a surprise.
Let's take a look at how the groups will break down for this year's tournament (via Jonathan Tannenwald of Philly.com), followed by a complete schedule (via the Gold Cup's official site) and an early preview for what to expect from the event that is being staged throughout the U.S.
|Trinidad and Tobago|
|July 7||5:30 p.m.||Rose Bowl||Canada vs. Martinique|
|July 7||8 p.m.||Rose Bowl||Mexico vs. Panama|
|July 8||7 p.m.||Red Bull Arena||El Salvador vs. Trinidad and Tobago|
|July 8||9:30 p.m.||Red Bull Arena||Haiti vs. Honduras|
|July 9||8:30 p.m.||Jeld-Wen Field||Costa Rica vs. Cuba|
|July 9||11 p.m.||Jeld-Wen Field||Belize vs. United States|
|July 11||8:30 p.m.||CenturyLink Field||Panama vs. Martinique|
|July 11||11 p.m.||CenturyLink Field||Mexico vs. Canada|
|July 12||7 p.m.||Sun Life Stadium||Trinidad and Tobago vs. Haiti|
|July 12||9:30 p.m.||Sun Life Stadium||Honduras vs. El Salvador|
|July 13||4 p.m.||Rio Tinto Stadium||United States vs. Cuba|
|July 13||6:30 p.m.||Rio Tinto Stadium||Costa Rica vs. Belize|
|July 14||4 p.m.||Sports Authority Field||Martinique vs. Mexico|
|July 14||6:30 p.m.||Sports Authority Field||Panama vs. Canada|
|July 15||7 p.m.||BBVA Compass Stadium||El Salvador vs. Haiti|
|July 15||9:30 p.m.||BBCA Compass Stadium||Honduras vs. Trinidad and Tobago|
|July 16||5:30 p.m.||Rentschler Field||Cuba vs. Belize|
|July 16||8 p.m.||Rentschler Field||United States vs. Costa Rica|
|July 20||3 p.m.||Georgia Dome||A2 vs. B2|
|July 20||6 p.m.||Georgia Dome||A1 vs. B3 or C3|
|July 21||4 p.m.||M&T Bank Stadium||B1 vs. C2|
|July 21||7 p.m.||M&T Bank Stadium||C1 vs. A3 or B3|
|July 24||7 p.m.||Cowboys Stadium||QF No. 3 winner vs. QF No. 4 winner|
|July 24||10 p.m.||Cowboys Stadium||QF No. 1 winner vs. QF No. 2 winner|
|July 28||4 p.m.||Soldier Field||Championship Match|
As always, the outcome of the tournament will be heavily dependent on the strength of the squads. Since it's an off-year event—meaning the winner doesn't get a berth in the next Confederations Cup—the managers may opt to go with youthful squads filled with players that need experience.
The other option for CONCACAF coaching staffs still in the midst of trying to qualify for the 2014 World Cup is to play the strongest squad possible. They would do that the with hope of building some momentum heading into the final set of qualifiers.
All that said, Mexico and the United States will enter the event as the favorites to reach the final. The countries have met in three-straight Gold Cup finals, with Mexico winning two of those contests. In fact, there hasn't been a final without at least once of the two nations being featured since 2000.
The two sides also met in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in early March, and Mexico won that meeting as well. If the managers decide to field inexperienced rosters, players from those squads could earn some caps in the Gold Cup.
Other contenders figure to include Honduras (who should benefit from a lackluster Group B), Costa Rica and Panama. If any country is going to bring an end to the Mexico vs. United States run, it will likely come from someone in that trio.