The group stage at the 2017 Gold Cup is now complete and eight teams will battle to become CONCACAF champions.
While the tournament started with 12 squads competing in a round-robin format, the stakes are now higher with one loss being enough to send a team home. Adjusted rosters also give the nations a chance to provide a higher quality of competition for the remaining matchups.
Mexico or the United States have combined to win this tournament 12 of 13 times, but anything can happen in the coming rounds.
July 19: Costa Rica vs. Panama (6 p.m. ET)
July 19: United States vs. El Salvador (9 p.m. ET)
July 20: Mexico vs. Honduras (10:30 p.m. ET)
July 20: Jamaica vs. Canada (7:30 p.m. ET)
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Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States were the highest-ranked teams entering the tournament, and the three should remain the top contenders going forward.
The United States struggled a bit during the group stage with its "B team," but the performance was better than what it showed two years ago at this event, as Paul Carr of ESPN noted:
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Allowing opponents to take 30 more shots isn't a good recipe for success, and the luck finally ran out for what became a fourth-place finish. This time around, the squad controlled possession and came through with two key wins and a draw.
Meanwhile, the Americans should get a nice boost with the addition of some regulars from the national team.
Per Steven Goff of the Washington Post, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Darlington Nagbe, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore will all compete with the team for the knockout round. This could make the squad tough to beat going forward.
Then again, Costa Rica won't be an easy out after showcasing impressive defense in the group stage. The team allowed just a single goal in three matches and should continue this level of play into the quarterfinals.
Mexico has also left its biggest stars at home, but that hasn't stopped the squad from outscoring opponents 5-1 in three matches.
Based on its recent history, the team will remain a favorite for the 2017 title.
Group Stage Tables
- Costa Rica (7 points)
- Canada (5 points)
- Honduras (4 points)
- French Guiana (0 points)
- United States (7 points)
- Panama (7 points)
- Martinique (3 points)
- Nicaragua (0 points)
- Mexico (7 points)
- Jamaica (5 points)
- El Salvador (4 points)
- Curacao (0 points)
While there were some surprising results along the way, the final tables ended up looking similar to what many had predicted.
As United States coach Bruce Arena explained, the result was all that mattered.
"I would think that you could say we wasted some opportunities, and made it pretty difficult on ourselves," Arena said after Saturday's win over Nicaragua, per Jeff Carlisle of ESPN. "However, in the end I'm pretty proud of our team that they kept battling, and they knew that they needed three goals in the game today and they managed to do it in the end."
Costa Rica and Mexico also had their hardships with draws against the teams that eventually finished second in their groups. Still, they managed to avoid catastrophe by coming through with first-place finishes.
The biggest disappointment to this point is probably Honduras, which won the Copa Centroamericana and has qualified for the last two World Cups.
In the Gold Cup, however, the squad failed to tally a single goal in three matches. It only advanced thanks to an awarded forfeit from French Guiana, which was eventually ruled a 3-0 win for Honduras.
On the other hand, Alphonso Davies and Canada have exceeded expectations and could continue their run with an appearance in the semifinals.
Still, the past results won't matter once the knockout round begins Wednesday.