Mexico's Javier Hernandez, left, celebrates with Andres Guardado… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Defending champion Mexico will kick off soccer's CONCACAF Gold Cup at the Rose Bowl on July 7 as part of a tournament doubleheader featuring three other teams yet to be determined. The 12-country regional competition, which will also include national teams from the U.S., Canada, Haiti, Honduras and El Salvador, among others, will conclude July 28.
The U.S. team's schedule, as well as the rest of the opening pairings, are expected to be announced next month. The last Gold Cup, in 2011, finished at the Rose Bowl with Mexico beating the U.S., 4-2, before a crowd of 93,420, the largest to watch a soccer match in the U.S. in 17 years. The site of this year's final will also be named next month, although Chicago's Soldier Field is considered the favorite to host the title match.
Tickets for the July 7 opener will be available on a special presale basis beginning Thursday through CONCACAF's social media sites at twitter.com/CONCACAF and on Facebook at OfficialCONCACAF. The general public sale begins Feb. 26 at 10 a.m. at Ticketmaster.com.
Five of the countries participating in the tournament -- among them Mexico and the U.S. -- will also be playing World Cup qualifiers this summer, which is why U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann has already hinted at the idea of using a "B" team in the Gold Cup. Mexico, which will also be playing in the prestigious Confederations Cup in Brazil in June, may follow suit, although national team manager Jose Manuel de la Torre was noncommittal Wednesday.
"We're not coming here to play in the tournament; we're coming here to win it, to defend our title," he said. "In Mexico, there is only one national team."
Justino Compean, president of the Mexican soccer federation, echoed that sentiment.
"The seriousness with which we're taking this tournament is 100%," he said.
And opening the event in Southern California, where the Mexican team has always had strong support, figures to get the team off to a good start, Compean added.
"It is very important for us to have that 12th man," he said. "We are very proud of playing here in front of these fans and that inspires us to give that little extra."
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