USA draws Panama, Martinique, play-in winner in 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup group

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The USA’s quest to reclaim the continental championship and wipe away some of the stain from an historically miserable 2015 Gold Cup will begin with group-stage games against Panama, Martinique and either Nicaragua or Haiti, CONCACAF announced Tuesday.

The 14th Gold Cup will be played July 7-26 at 14 stadiums (in 13 metro areas—Dallas gets two) across the U.S.  

As usual, the regional governing body dispensed with the transparency, tedium and cringe-worthy trappings of a live draw and selected the groups using competitive and marketing criteria. The hosts (USA), reigning champion (Mexico) and the winner of the Central American qualifying tournament (Honduras) are the seeded sides. The Americans avoided the top unseeded nation, Costa Rica, in what should be a relatively easy group stage. Los Ticos were placed in Group A with Honduras.

Eleven of the 12 Gold Cup participants have booked their place. The final berth will be determined by this month’s two-game playoff between Haiti and Nicaragua. The survivor will enter the USA’s group. The top two finishers in each group will be joined in the quarterfinals by two of the three third-place teams.

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The Gold Cup winner will have a shot at qualifying for the 2021 Confederations Cup thanks to the playoff instituted two years ago. If different teams win the ’17 and ’19 Gold Cups, they’ll meet to decide the CONCACAF representative. Mexico will play in this summer’s Confederations Cup thanks to its win over the USA in the playoff staged in October 2015.

Here’s a closer look at the USA and its Group B foes:

USA

Current FIFA Rank: 29

How Qualified: Automatic

2015 Result: Fourth place (3-1-2)

Best Gold Cup Finish: Champion 1991, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2013

Note: Before entering the Gold Cup, the US will play four World Cup qualifiers, including this month’s critical games against Honduras (March 24) and Panama (March 28).

PANAMA

Current FIFA Rank: 53

How Qualified: Second place at 2017 Copa Centroamericana

2015 Result: Third place (0-1-5)

Best Gold Cup Finish: Second place 2005, 2013

Record vs. USA: 1-11-4

Note: Panama managed a bronze medal two years ago without winning a game. It outlasted the USA in the third place match (now scrapped) on penalties.

MARTINIQUE

Current FIFA Rank: N/A (not a FIFA member) 

How Qualified: 2017 Caribbean Cup semifinalist

2015 Result: DNQ

Best Gold Cup Finish: Quarterfinals 2002

Record vs. USA: 0-1-0

Note: The only meeting between the USA and Martinique was a 2003 Gold Cup group-stage game won, 2-0, by the Americans on first-half goals by Brian McBride.

HAITI/NICARAGUA

Current FIFA Rank: 69/117

How Qualified: Winner of playoff between fifth-place finishers in Central America and Caribbean

2015 Result: Quarterfinals (1-2-1)/DNQ

Best Gold Cup Finish: Quarterfinals 2002, 2009, 2015/Group stage 2009

Record vs. USA: 6-6-5/0-0-0

Note: The favored Haitians feature New York Red Bulls midfielder Derrick Etienne, Jacksonville Armada defender Mechack Jérôme and San Francisco Deltas goalkeeper Steward Ceus.

Here’s the entire Gold Cup schedule:

Group A

July 7 - Honduras vs. Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena, Harrison NJ

July 7 - Canada vs. French Guiana at Red Bull Arena, Harrison NJ

July 11 - Costa Rica vs. Canada at BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston

July 11 - Honduras vs. French Guiana at BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston

July 14 - Costa Rica vs. French Guiana at Toyota Stadium, Frisco TX

July 14 - Canada vs. Honduras at Toyota Stadium, Frisco TX

Group B

July 8 - USA vs. Panama at Nissan Stadium, Nashville

July 8 - Martinique vs. Haiti/Nicaragua Nissan Stadium, Nashville

July 12 - Panama vs. Haiti/Nicaragua at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

July 12 - USA vs. Martinique at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

July 15 - Panama vs. Martinique at FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland

July 15 - USA vs. Haiti/Nicaragua at FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland

Group C

July 9 - Curacao vs. Jamaica at Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

July 9 - Mexico vs. El Salvador at Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

July 13 - El Salvador vs. Curacao at Sports Authority Field, Denver

July 13 - Mexico vs. Jamaica at Sports Authority Field, Denver

July 16 - Jamaica vs. El Salvador at Alamodome, San Antonio

July 16 - Curacao vs. Mexico at Alamodome, San Antonio

Quarterfinals

July 19 - Group A 1st vs. Group B 2nd at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

July 19 - Group B 1st vs. Group A/C 3rd at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

July 20 - Group C 1st vs. Group A/B 3rd at University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale AZ

July 20 - Group A 2nd vs. Group C 2nd at University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale AZ

Semifinals

July 22 - Philadelphia quarterfinal winners at AT&T Stadium, Arlington TX

July 23 - Glendale quarterfinal winners at Rose Bowl, Pasadena CA

Final

July 26 at Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara CA

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