Looking back at my post after the Haiti draw, I realized that I was only half right in my criticism of the contest. I am still not fond of the seeming lack of focus going into and during the contest. However, some of the criticism was misplaced at that time as I didn’t really agree with US Soccer’s decision to make this a developmental tournament for the US program. That opinion has changed.
The international stages of the Confederations Cup and World Cup (qualifying) are much more important for the quality of US Soccer if not necessarily for its perception in America than the Gold Cup. Furthermore, the confluence of the deep run in the Confederations Cup, the MLS season, and club training made participation in the Gold Cup a little too much to ask for most of the starting eleven in light of World Cup qualifying (and particularly, August 12th).
In general, the Gold Cup itself is not held in the same regard as the European Championship (or even Copa America) by the world soccer community around the globe in part due to the quality of play and its occurrence every two years. In fact, even fans of CONCACAF nations have lamented its bi-annual format as opposed to a four-year model that could make it a “bigger deal.” Given the money it brings in, I doubt that will change, but that isn’t a bad thing.
On the contrary, I think the US should use the bi-annual format to its advantage as it has this past cycle. Play the “A” team the summer after each World Cup in hopes of getting into the Confederations Cup and then purposefully make it a developmental tournament the summer prior to the next World Cup. While I am not suggesting that as long as the US regulars show-up they will win (thereby securing a birth the next Confederations Cup), I think we can safely assume that they will be one of the two favorites (with Mexico) for the foreseeable future. (A by-product of this approach would be that the Gold Cup the years after the WC would be a “bigger deal.”)
Aside from the “psychological” boost (if there even was one) and a big ass trophy, what did Mexico gain by being crowned the champion? With neither side at full strength, the win will get them two weeks of good press and bragging rights until the “real game” on August 12th. So kudos to US Soccer for being smarter than me and figuring this out well in advance.