The 2023 Gold Cup was an enthralling month-long tournament featuring Concacaf’s best. In the end, Mexico won its ninth Gold Cup. The tournament showcased the talent that Concacaf has, and just how important games of consequence will be for the region moving forward toward the 2026 Men’s World Cup being hosted in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
A look back at the 2023 Gold Cup
The 2023 Gold Cup was full of ups and downs for the 16 nations that took place in it. Countries like St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique, Cuba, Guadeloupe, El Salvador, Haiti, and Honduras all failed to make the knockout rounds. Some nations on this half of the field had their moments, but fell short; Guadeloupe and Haiti stick out as they just missed making the Quarterfinals.
Quarterfinalists, Qatar and Costa Rica were able to advance to the knockout rounds but had poor showings in a win-or-go-home game. It was a poor showing from both, but not very surprising either.
Canada had fallen from the top of Concacaf after failing to beat the USA in the Nation’s League Final back in June. They sent a B-Team to the tournament as most of their strong players were readying for their European club season. As a result, they fell in the quarterfinals stage in a penalty shootout against the USA.
Guatemala made a great run in the group stage to win their group. They looked to be one of the neutral’s favorites heading into the quarterfinals. Unfortunately for them, they met another hot team, Jamaica, and fell to them 1-0.
Jamaica, the USA, Panama, and Mexico made up the final four. Panama and Mexico found ways to advance to the final. Let’s look at these final four a bit closer.
Mexico wins highly competitive Gold Cup final beating Panama 1-0
Mexico ended up winning the whole damn thing for a record ninth time. They faced a Panama side that was being called the best team in the tournament. It took a while, but Mexico was able to give Panama their only defeat. Santiago Gimenez scored in the 88th minute to secure the win.
Mexico and Panama both brought their best teams available to them. This was not the case with their eventual 2026 co-hosts Canada and the USA. Because of this, Mexico was able to win yet another Gold Cup and assert its dominance yet again in the region. They needed this win too after questionable play over the last eight months.
After months of turmoil, El Tri has now won a trophy. Could this help them turn their sputtering form around? They will hope so as they move forward and prepare to be cohosts of the 2026 Men’s World Cup. They will look to build on this momentous Concacaf win moving forward.
Panama and Jamaica are raising the Concacaf ranks
Panama was the team of the 2023 Gold Cup. They were so close to pushing Mexico to extra time, and if they had done that, then their chances of winning the final would have risen exponentially. They fell in the final, but that doesn’t mean that this competition was a failure.
After cruising through their group stage. They bashed Qatar 4-0 in the quarterfinals. They then pushed the USMNT to extra time in the semis. They scored in extra time to take the lead but gave up a goal to push things to penalties. They were the more confident side in penalties and won the shootout to make the final. Just like against the USA, Panama made things hard for their opponent to play through. Unfortunately, they let in a late goal and had to settle for second place.
Panama will be good going forward from this tournament. They have a great collective of veteran and young players. Rising star Coco Carrasquilla won the best player of the tournament and is poised to lead the team with his playmaking in the midfield for years to come. This nation has a bright future!
Another nation with a bright future is Jamaica. The Reggae Boyz has a core group of Conacaaf-made players, and now have players who are joining Jamaica with Premier League pedigree. Leon Baily, Demari Gray, and Michail Antonio headline their attack and give this team another dimension that they were missing in years past.
Their run to the semifinals was a testament to their team’s rising. Probably the only reason why they fell to Mexico in the semis is because the players are still to really gel together. This side has a lot of potential, but they have yet to put everything together to become a true team. The togetherness that they need to win was not there at this Gold Cup.
Could this be something that Jamaica puts together sometime soon in the future? That is still lto be seen. However, with their strong attacking players, and their gritty defense led by goalkeeper Andre Blake could be the catalyst for them qualifying for the 2026 World Cup as the field is expanding from 32 to 48 nations.
Failure for the USMNT after sending “C-Team?”
Okay, now it’s time to talk about the USA. They came into the tournament as reigning champions. In the 2021 tournament, the USMNT brought in what many called a “C-Team” and still won the whole tournament. They did the same thing this time around but fell in the semifinals to Panama on penalty kicks.
While the USMNT did make it to the final four at the Gold Cup, this tournament has to be considered a failure. With the next World Cup only three years away, and the USMNT being one of the co-hosts, they won’t have to qualify for the biggest tournament in the world. This is usually when teams are able to come together, to face the adversity of qualifying. Without that, the USA needs to perform well in any kind of competitive matches they have, i.e. this Gold Cup.
Bringing a “C-Team” to one of a possible three competitive competitions this national team will play in before the 2026 World Cup and failing to win the competition is a failure. There’s no other way to put it. This doesn’t mean the USA is falling into turmoil as their roster is still stacked with world-class players. It’s just that this showing is disappointing, and is a wake-up call to US Soccer that their “C-Team” can’t beat the rest of Concacaf in a major tournament.
Concacaf moving forward
The Future of Concacaf looks very bright. Obviously with three teams co-hosting the next Men’s World Cup, the world’s eyes will be fixed on the region. With teams like Panama, Jamaica, and others rising up only makes for better competition.
Concacaf Nation’s League starts back up again this coming October, with the final four being slated to play in March of 2024. There will also be a Nations League tournament the year after it starting in 2024, with the final four being played in 2025.
Also kicking off in 2024 is the Copa America which is usually a tournament for just the 10 Conmebol (South American) teams, but this edition will be in the USA and feature the USMNT and five other Concacaf Nations.
These opportunities coming up will be invaluable for the Concacaf Nations. They will need to show what they can do against some of the best competition in the world. We’ll wait and see what these nations can do!
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Mandatory Credit: AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire, AP Photo/Sam Hodde, AP Photo/Gregory Bull, & AP Photo/David Banks.