The Gold Cup starts Saturday when Canada takes on Martinique at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Most coverage Stateside this week has focused on the USMNT’s awful form in its last two matches. There’s plenty more to be said about whether Gregg Berhalter and the U.S. can make a run in this tournament.
This piece, though, is going to focus whether El Tri and the U.S. are as far ahead of the field as the oddsmakers seem to think they are.
One of the most interesting things from the betting angle is how similar the odds at DraftKings Sportsbook NJ are for Mexico (+145) and the U.S. (+175) to win the Gold Cup. I hate to overreact to two friendlies, but the U.S. looked so far from competent against Jamaica and Venezuela (especially in the latter) that I think the lines for this tournament’s traditional juggernauts should be further apart.
Are the current odds due to skepticism about Tata Martino or optimism about the impact Christian Pulisic and Michael Bradley will have? Is the U.S. essentially having home-field advantage being overestimated?
Mexico, U.S. appear beatable
Upon a closer look at who El Tri has available, the main reason is pretty obvious. This is not quite Mexico’s B team, but it’s certainly not the line-up they would have if this were a World Cup. Mexico is missing Chicharito, Hector Herrera and Carlos Vela, to name just a few key contributors that won’t be suiting up.
For the U.S., playing without Tyler Adams or John Brooks will be difficult. Does anyone on this roster other than Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, 31-year-old Michael Bradley and 29-year-old Jozy Altidore inspire a lot of confidence? Are four proven commodities enough to win a Gold Cup?
Considering all the cause for concern around Mexico and the U.S., if it were possible to bet on “the field” vs. those two, I’d give the field a long, hard look.
ESPN’s SPI does not agree, as it gives the U.S. a 43.4% chance to win, followed by Mexico (30.7%), Costa Rica (12.4%), Canada (2.8%) and Panama (2.7%).
It’s well-documented that in Gold Cup history, someone other than Mexico or the U.S. has won this tournament just once (Canada in 2000). The payout if anyone bets on someone other than those two will be substantial, as Costa Rica has the third-best odds but is a massive underdog at +850, followed by Jamaica (+1,800).
Below are a few underdogs worth keeping an eye on:
There is more buzz around them than there has been in a long time. The first name that comes to mind when thinking of this team is Alphonso Davies, who is among the top players to watch. The teenage Bayern Munich striker was excellent in the 2017 Gold Cup, scoring three goals in four matches. Canada, whose FIFA ranking is No. 78, is a long shot to win the whole thing, but could very well make a run. At +3,300 to raise the trophy, they’re worth a flier (this will be a common refrain).
As far as sides in this field that have given the USMNT trouble historically, Costa Rica is at the top of the list (though Trinidad and Tobago has caused an issue or two). It also has the highest FIFA ranking (38) after Mexico (18) and the U.S. (24). Los Ticos will be missing keeper Keylor Navas, but if I’m betting on anyone other than the favorites, it’s Costa Rica. Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell, 26, are both proven players in World Cups. There aren’t many teams in “the field,” if any, with two veterans with their pedigree, even if the 33-year-old Ruiz is past his prime.
The last intriguing dark horse I could see hoisting the trophy is Jamaica, which finished second in both ’15 and ’17. For one thing, the Reggae Boyz have by far the best nickname in this tournament. More importantly, the No. 56 team in the FIFA ranking should enter the Gold Cup with confidence after beating the U.S. 1-0 on June 5th.
Anyone looking to really roll the dice may want to think about Curacao, which is led by a pair of ’18-19 EPL players in Everton’s Cuco Martina (on loan this season at Feyenoord) and Leandro Bacuna of Cardiff City. At +25,000 to win, if they aren’t the definition of “why not?” then who is?