After missing out two years ago, Guatemala has high hopes in this Gold Cup
Not qualifying for the 2013 edition may have dented Guatemala’s footballing pride somewhat. However, when former Comunicaciones manager Ivan Sopegno was named head coach in May 2014, the Chapines’ competitive prospects took an upward turn.
Sopegno guided the side to a runner-up finish in the 2014 Central American Cup, which qualified it for the 2015 Gold Cup. Guatemala took a 1-0 lead in the final against Costa Rica, but the Ticos rallied for a 2-1 win. Despite the setback, midfielder Marco Pappa captured Golden Ball and Golden Boot honors (4 goals).
The presence of veteran forward Carlos Ruiz will once again prove pivotal for Guatemala in a competitive environment. He initially closed the curtain on his international career following a 3-1 loss to the United States in a World Cup qualifier on October 16, 2012. Slightly less than two years later, he agreed to return and help the Chapines qualify for the Gold Cup.
The 35-year-old is Guatemala’s leader in appearances (112 caps) and tops its scoring table (57 goals). He has steered Municipal to two straight runner-up finishes in Guatemala and was the joint-top scorer in the 2014 Apertura with 12 goals. Remarkably, Ruiz has netted seven goals in four different Gold Cups (2003: 1, 2005: 3, 2007: 1, 2011: 2) and has tallied seven times in Central American Cup play (1999: 2, 2003: 3, 2014: 2).
In June, Guatemala advanced to the third round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup by getting past Bermuda (agg: 1-0 … 1st leg: 0-0 home draw; 2nd leg: 1-0 away win). Germany-based Stefano Cincotta scored the only goal in the series.
Trinidad & Tobago
Views of the Chicago skyline often include the iconic Soldier Field. Promoted as “a stadium in a park,” Soldier Field is set on Chicago’s waterfront just off Lake Michigan. Named in honor of American soldiers that died in war, the stadium opened on October 9, 1924, as Municipal Grant Park Stadium. It was modeled on Greco-Roman architectural tradition, but its most unique and well-known feature is its imposing colonnades that rise above the stands. The stadium was renovated and reopened on September 29, 2003, with a reduced capacity of 61,500 and a new design that maintained the famous colonnades. Soldier Field has staged numerous high-profile events in its 84-year history, including five 1994 FIFA World Cup games. This will be the fifth consecutive CONCACAF Gold Cup that Soldier Field will host, after featuring the semifinals and final in 2007, the semifinals in 2009, a first-round doubleheaders in 2011 and the final in 2013. Aside from the Gold Cup, Soldier Field has also hosted United States men’s and women’s national soccer team matches, international exhibitions and even served as the home of Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire and the Chicago Sting of the old North American Soccer League.
City: Chicago, Illinois
Venue: Soldier Field
Inaugurated: October 9, 1924; Renovated in 2003
Tenant(s): Chicago Bears (NFL)
Past events: 1990 Marlboro Cup; 1992 U.S. Cup; 1994 FIFA World Cup; 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup; 2000 U.S. Cup; Mexico vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina (2014); Liverpool vs. Olympiacos (2014); NATO World Summit 2012
Past Gold Cup(s): 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago
PPL Park, a state-of-the-art 18,500-seat Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium, serves as home to Philadelphia Union. Since opening its doors on June 27, 2010, it has hosted numerous events for multiple sports. In October 2014, the CONCACAF Women’s Championship finals were held there as the United States, Costa Rica and Mexico earned berths to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Two years earlier, the MLS All-Stars squared off against English-power Chelsea before a crowd of 19,236. PPL Park has been recognized on multiple occasions, winning awards from Mid Atlantic Construction Magazine for “Best Sports/Recreation Project of the Year,” the Delaware County Planning Commission for outstanding land projects in the County and the NCS4 Facility Achievement Award that honors venues that excel in safety and security operations.
City: Chester, Pennsylvania
Past Gold Cups:first-time venue
Field Size: 120 x 75