The Women’s World Cup may be dominating the news in the world of international soccer right now, but let’s not forget about the upcoming Gold Cup. CONCACAF’s premier men’s event is set to get underway starting on June 15, with games being hosted in the United States, Jamaica, and Costa Rica.
The U.S. Men’s National Team certainly isn’t as prolific on the world stage as their female counterparts, but they will be looking to steal some of the headlines away with their play over the next few weeks. The American men have been mired in a disastrous stretch, and their form leading into this tournament isn’t all that inspiring. The USMNT were beaten 1-0 by Jamaica on June 5th, and they followed that up with an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at the hands of Venezuela in a friendly four days later.
This year’s Gold Cup is different in that 16 teams are participating, whereas each of the last 14 editions have included just 12 teams. All 16 teams are coming from CONCACAF, so no “guest” appearances for the likes of Brazil or Argentina this time around.
The U.S. won the 2017 Gold Cup with a 2-1 triumph over Jamaica in the final. The Americans are listed at +150 to repeat as champions, though Mexico enters the tournament as betting favorites at +130. The entire field with odds is as follows:
As you can see in the betting odds above, there are quite a few long shots entering this tournament. Needless to say, the field for the Gold Cup isn’t as littered with quality teams as a World Cup or even a Copa America. The league is pretty top-heavy, which is why we see 13 of the 16 teams in the field with odds of +1400 or longer to actually win it.
Each of the four groups has a pretty clear-cut favorite. Considering Mexico is favored to win the tournament, it goes without saying that El Tri will also be favored to win Group A over the likes of Canada, Martinique, and Cuba. In Group B, Costa Rica will be tipped to win at the expense of Nicaragua, Bermuda, and Haiti.
Groups C and D should be a little more competitive. Group C has a couple of teams capable of winning it in Jamaica and Honduras, while Group D includes the USA and Panama. The U.S. should come out on top of Group D, but nothing is certain given the way the Americans have looked in recent matches.
Unless you want to throw a $5 flier on some of these massive long shots, we can pretty easily write off a number of them when it comes to winning the Gold Cup. Frankly, I don’t think any of the teams listed at +3250 or above have any chance whatsoever. A team like Canada or Haiti stands a decent shot at advancing into the knockout rounds, but it’s unfathomable that either of them advance much further.
As a result, the only viable betting options to win the 2019 Gold Cup (in my opinion) are Mexico, the United States, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, and Costa Rica.
The tournament is set up to where the two favorites, Mexico and the US, have a chance of meeting in the final. The winner of Group A will meet the runner-ups of Group B, while the winner of Group B will meet the second place team in Group A in the knockout stage, etc.
Costa Rica is one of the more experienced teams on the field. While some are looking to give playing time to young players, Los Ticos is expected to trot out familiar faces like Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell. They are expected to play a hard-attacking style under new manager Gustavo Matosas, and they should have a pretty easy go of it in Group B against Nicaragua, Haiti, and Bermuda.
Los Ticos’ route to the final likely includes matchups with Canada and Mexico in the knockout rounds. Costa Rica would be favored if they face-off with the Canadians, but toppling Mexico is a far more difficult feat. Assuming they don’t suffer any lapses early on, a semifinal appearance seems like a reasonable expectation for this side.
Canada is a team with major question marks in defense, so a quarterfinal tilt with Costa Rica would presumably be problematic for John Herdman’s side. Costa Rica has far more pace than Canada is capable of keeping up with, so barring a particularly poor showing from the Costa Ricans, it’s hard to see Canada’s path beyond the quarters.
Jamaica has been a runner-up in each of the last two Gold Cups, so Theodore Whitmore will be hoping that the third time’s the charm. This is one of the younger sides in the field, but the USMNT recently saw that there is still plenty of quality here.
Jamaica likes to attack down the wings with their star fullbacks, Alvas Powell and Kemar Lawrence. The problem with that style is that they can easily get caught out of position if they happen to lose possession in the middle of the pitch. Jamaica will also likely face the United States in the quarters, which makes their path to the Gold Cup final a fairly difficult one. I don’t hate the value on the “Reggae Boyz” at +1400, but I’d prefer the bet if they had a cleaner path to the championship round.
Honduras is fresh off a World Cup appearance last year, but the side showing up at the Gold Cup looks quite a bit different. The manager, Fabian Coito, has been in charge of the Honduran U-20 side until his recent promotion. This team was smacked 7-0 by Brazil in a recent friendly, and they have averaged just 0.75 expected goals per 90 minutes over their last eight matches overall.
As a result, Honduras feels like a bit of a trap at +2500. The presence of the great Alberth Elis alone will give them a chance in every match they play, but I’m not sure this is a side that can be trusted to get through a side of the bracket that also includes the US, Jamaica, and Panama.
Speaking of Panama, they have been even less productive than Honduras on a per-90 minute basis (0.47 expected goals). It’s a team that relies on the counter more than dominating possession, which is a style that naturally lends itself to some dry spells when it comes to goal-scoring. Honduras and Panama feel like awfully risky bets at +2500 and +1500, respectively.
This will be the first major tournament for both Tata Martino and Gregg Berhalter, who recently took charge of Mexico and the United States, respectively. The Mexico squad isn’t nearly as strong as the one we saw in Russia last summer, as Carlos Vela, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, and Hector Herrera will not be participating. Young star Hirving Lozano will also miss the Gold Cup due to injury.
Even a weakened Mexico is still among the best in the field, though, if not the best. Martino is one of the more well-respected coaches on this side of the globe, which doesn’t hurt. Raul Jimenez will be the main man up front, and the Wolverhampton striker should provide a reliable option for El Tri in front of goal.
The United States controversially left Josh Sargent off the Gold Cup roster, but there is still some star power here. Most notably, Christian Pulisic. The newest Chelsea player will be looking to lead the Americans to a much-needed showing in the tournament. Berhalter also included veteran Michael Bradley in the squad in order to provide some experienced leadership, while Zack Steffen is a proven commodity in goal.
Because of the Americans’ aforementioned lackluster form in recent days, it’s hard to have too much optimism regarding their chances at the Gold Cup. they have played down to their competition routinely, which is a bad habit considering how many beatable sides there are in the field.
That said, they have to be right there with Mexico as odds-on favorites, and anything other than a Mexico-USA final matchup would be a surprise.
Both sides are decent values here, with Mexico checking in with slightly better odds of winning the Gold Cup (+130). The USMNT does have a good track record in this competition, though, and the fact that most of the games will take place on American soil can only be seen as an advantage for the red, white, and blue.
Taking the U.S. Men’s National Team at +150 to win is a perfectly fine bet. Mexico is a safer option at +135, but given the relative lack of experience on either side for this competition, I do think it’s fair to take either bet here. Mexico-USA will be your Gold Cup final matchup. If forced to choose, I’ll lean slightly toward the better value offered by the Americans at +150.
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