The soccer news starts with an interesting weekend in the Gold Cup quarterfinals. Haiti came back from two goals down to knockout Canada 3-2. Mexico needed an extra round of penalties to get past Costa Rica. On the other side of the bracket, Jamaica advanced over Panama and the USMNT knocked out Curacao both with 1-0 shutouts. If there's any major carryover from these games, it's that there's still plenty to play for at this tournament.
What that looks like in the semifinals on Tuesday and Wednesday is an open question. Mexico has the easier game on paper, likely to end Haiti's run in the same way the USMNT stopped a surprisingly strong Curacao in the quarters. It's always worth the reminder that the Gold Cup has produced giant killers in the past rather than using this to point to a bright new future for Concacaf's project of getting games for all of its members. Still, both sides of the bracket saw disruption that should end at the semifinal stage.
Haiti knocking out Canada could end up one of the biggest stories to emerge from the 2019 Gold Cup. This was a Canada team trying to turn the corner on past disappointments and build themselves into a potential World Cup qualifier. Navigating their group was step one, but for Canada this summer needed to be about more. Instead, it's a quarterfinal exit to a team that probably won't flatter that result by stressing Mexico in the semis.
The United States moves on stressing that the result is all that matters in a knockout scenario. That's the point of tournament soccer, as so many have already pointed out. Style and a possession oriented game are nice to see, but they're not a prerequisite for advancing. We've seen enough looks from the USMNT already to suggest progress and a bigger point to coach Gregg Berhalter's methods. If Curacao was a slip, it certainly wasn't a stumble.
Now it's the kind of scenario most expected from the outset. Increasingly tougher games on the road to the final. Well, maybe. Other than some of the 120 minutes of Mexico vs Costa Rica, we haven't really seen the kind of games that define this region. Part of the problem is strength of squad and the long-term issues with the every-other-year Gold Cup but both of those aren't new. Concacaf's pressure on getting games that count for all its members led to Gold Cup expansion alongside the Nations League. Still, it's tough to argue that moving from 12 to 16 teams at the Gold Cup has altered the tournament considerably.
If this Gold Cup is remembered for being a pragmatic exercise in tournament management, it won't be the first time. That's not what the region needs, but in a transitional moment it's also not entirely unexpected. Concacaf is changing, in part by choice in part in response to what UEFA is already doing. Whether or not those changes work is the big picture question hanging over the region.
MLSsoccer's Matthew Doyle's look at the USMNT on their way to the semifinals. Yahoo Sports' Henry Bushnell's report from the USMNT win over Curacao. Pro Soccer Talk's Joe Tansey on the quarterfinal win.
Inside World Soccer's Andrew Warshaw explains the MLS influence on the Gold Cup teams. The Guardian's Graham Ruthven with the commercial flights issue in MLS. Goal's Stephen Creek with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola seeing a Super League as a threat to domestic soccer across Europe.
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