The Concacaf Hexagonal will remain for at least one more cycle, but the road to getting there has been eliminated for the region's top-ranked teams. As for the minnows–and the fourth-place finisher in the hex–the path to qualification is a long one.
On one hand, the USA fell to a Mexico side missing a slew of big names and settled for second in the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup. On the other, the feeling inside the team is one of positivity, acknowledging the immediate disappointment but seeing a brighter big picture for the first time in a while.
The U.S. men's national team had its chances, but after failing to convert them, Mexico made the Americans pay, and Jonathan Dos Santos delivered the only strike necessary to return Concacaf bragging rights back into El Tri's control.
Christian Pulisic has been given a lot of responsibility at the Gold Cup, and the 20-year-old USA star has embraced it, with three goals and three assists en route to helping the Americans reach a final vs. rival Mexico.
A final against an archrival has a funny way of narrowing your focus and raising the stakes. The U.S. men's national team's view is still on building for the long term, but a Gold Cup title bout vs. Mexico changes the equation for the immediate future.
After eight years, the USA and Mexico will finally meet again in a Concacaf Gold Cup final, with Jozy Altidore and Weston McKennie stepping up alongside Christian Pulisic to deliver a semifinal triumph over Jamaica.
The USA's 1-0 win over Curaçao in the Gold Cup quarterfinals didn't flatter the Americans, who have more expected of them as they continue to build back up from the rock bottom of nearly two years ago–and they know it.
The U.S. men's national team was outpossessed and outshot by Curaçao on a night when it was largely disjointed and disconnected, but one clean sequence and one game-preserving save sent the Americans to the Gold Cup semifinals–where they'll need to be much better.
The only other time the U.S. men's national team played Curaçao, it was 35 years ago and the nation was known as Netherlands Antilles. Regardless of the perceived talent gap, the U.S. isn't taking its foe lightly–not after the events of 20 months ago.
A fully changed U.S. men's national team edged Panama on Jozy Altidore's impressive goal to finish off an unblemished group run at the Gold Cup, and while not all players took advantage of their playing time, the squad appears to have every reason to expect a run to the final.