Theodore Whitmore, the Jamaica head coach, won’t be taking any gambles at the CONCACAF Gold Cup but he will surely have his eye set on winning the top prize at Las Vegas come 1 August.
Kingston-born Whitmore, who methodically guided his Reggae Boyz to the 2019 semi-final and 2017 final of the showpiece tournament, will be aiming for Jamaica to be crowned Gold Cup winners for the first time this year.
The Boyz tackle the 16th edition of the tournament in the United States in July, with the final at the newly-built US$2 billion Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Whitmore will undoubtedly believe that his new-look Boyz, littered with new faces, have a shot at winning the competition. A handful of nations are set to rest players ahead of the all-important regional FIFA World Cup qualifiers in September, where the lucrative reward is to compete at Qatar 2022.
Jamaica surprisingly finished runner-up at the 2015 and 2017 Gold Cup, but slipped up 3-1 to the United States in the 2019 competition. This time the US will not be just a force as they have indicated that they will be resting their stars, which means that Jamaica will fancy their chances against their regular rivals should they tackle each other.
Whitmore, who has patiently masterminded Jamaica’s rise in recent years, will get an opportunity to rue his eye over the 30-strong squad that he has picked for next month’s whistlestop tour of Japan before finalising his Gold Cup squad.
He has selected ten players who ply their trade in England, and although he has a handful of reliable aces in his pack many are an unknown quantity. However, the friendly matches against Japan (3 June), Serbia (7 June) and the Japan Olympic U23 team (12 June) are seen as part of his fine-tuning process that the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has determined.
Facing such strong sides will be a terrific yardstick for Whitmore to discover whether his troops are a force to be reckoned. Jamaica’s first competitive game at the Gold Cup is due to take place against Suriname at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium on 12 July, which will kick off Group C.
Costa Rica, who lie five places behind FIFA world-ranked no.45 Jamaica, slipped up 1-0 to Mexico in March yet are surprisingly the seeded side in Group C. The Boyz will tackle Costa Rica on 20 July, four days after Jamaica face a qualifier that will be either Bahamas, Guadeloupe, Guatemala or Guyana.
The top two nations from the four-team Group round-robin encounters will advance to the knockout stage of the quarter-finals.
Jamaica, as long as they finish in the top two, will play at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on 24 July. Emerging nation Curaçao, El Salvador, Mexico or a qualifier (Cuba, French Guyana, Montserrat or Trinidad & Tobago) lie in wait.
Should the Boyz make it to their fourth Gold Cup semi-final on the bounce then 29 July could be memorable date with a game in Texas at either the NRG Stadium in Houston or the Q2 Stadium in Austin. The final is slated for August 1 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, which only opened last year.
Mexico (no.11), the seeded side in Group A, shall be missing their young talent as the region’s representatives at the Olympics in Japan (22 July–7 August). The Games’ Football Competition comprises U23 players. The defending champions have been drawn to tackle El Salvador (no.69), Curaçao (no.76) and a qualifier from either Cuba, French Guyana, Montserrat or ever improving Trinidad & Tobago (no.103).
The United States (no.20) are the Group B seeds, and have been handed arguably the easier route among the leading teams. US coach Gregg Berhalter, who will be resting his European-based players, faces Canada (no.70), minnows Martinique and one nation from either Barbados, Bermuda, Haiti (no.83) or St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Honduras (no.67) head Group D as the seeded team and, like Mexico, will be without their young aces as they tackle the Olympic Games. The others sides in the group are Panama (no.78), Grenada and AFC Asian Cup champions Qatar as the guest nation.
CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani enthused “We are extremely pleased to confirm the schedule and venues for this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, which promises to be a celebration of football in CONCACAF’s 60th anniversary year.”
Should Whitmore have even more English-born players at his disposal, which the JFF seem to be desperately trying to recruit, then it could well be the former midfield star who is able to beat the odds and celebrate in style at Las Vegas.
CONCACAF GOLD CUP SCHEDULE
(*Listed in ET)
2 July | DRV PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Preliminary 1st Round)
M1 Haiti v St. Vincent and the Grenadines (4.30pm)
M6 Bermuda v Barbados (7pm)
M3 Trinidad & Tobago v Montserrat (9.30pm)
3 July | DRV PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Preliminary 1st Round)
M5 Guadeloupe v Bahamas (4.30pm)
M4 Cuba v French Guiana (7pm)
M2 Guatemala v Guyana (9.30pm)
6 July | DRV PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Preliminary 2nd Round)
M9 Winner M3 v Winner M4 (4.30pm)
M7 Winner M1 v Winner M6 (7pm)
M8 Winner M2 v Winner M5 (9.30pm)
10 July | Dallas Metropolitan Area (Group A)
El Salvador v Curaçao, Toyota Stadium (4pm)
Mexico v Winner M9, AT&T Stadium (10pm)
11 July | Kansas City, Kansas (Group B)
Canada v Martinique, Children’s Mercy Park (6.30pm)
USA v Winner M7, Children’s Mercy Park (8.30pm)
12 July | Orlando, Florida (Group C)
Jamaica v Suriname, Exploria Stadium (6.30pm)
Costa Rica v Winner M8, Exploria Stadium (9pm)
13 July | Houston, Texas (Group D)
Qatar v Panama, BBVA Stadium (6pm)
Honduras v Grenada, BBVA Stadium (9pm)
14 July | Dallas Metropolitan Area (Group A)
Winner M9 v El Salvador, Toyota Stadium, 7.30pm
Curaçao v Mexico, Cotton Bowl, 9.30pm
15 July | Kansas City, Kansas (Group B)
Winner M7 v Canada, Children’s Mercy Park (7.30pm)
Martinique v USA, Children’s Mercy Park (9.30pm)
16 July | Orlando, Florida (Group C)
Winner M8 v Jamaica, Exploria Stadium (6.30pm)
Suriname v Costa Rica, Exploria Stadium (8.30pm)
17 July | Houston, Texas (Group D)
Grenada v Qatar, BBVA Stadium (7.30pm)
Panama v Honduras, BBVA Stadium (9.30pm)
18 July | Groups A & B
Martinique v Winner M7, Toyota Stadium, Dallas (5pm)
USA v Canada, Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas (5pm)
Mexico v El Salvador (Cotton Bowl, Dallas (10pm)
Curaçao v Winner M9 (Toyota Stadium, Dallas (10pm)
20 July | Groups C & D
Costa Rica v Jamaica, Exploria Stadium, Florida (7pm)
Suriname v Winner M8, BBVA Stadium, Texas (7pm)
Panama v Grenada, Exploria Stadium, Florida (9pm)
Honduras v Qatar, BBVA Stadium, Texas (9pm)
24 July | Glendale, Arizona (quarter-finals)
QF1 1D v 2A, State Farm Stadium (7.30pm)
QF2 1A v 2D, State Farm Stadium (10pm)
25 July | Arlington, Texas (quarter-finals)
QF3 1C v 2B, AT&T Stadium (7pm)
QF4 1B v 2C, AT&T Stadium (9.30pm)
29 July | Texas (semi-finals)*
SF1 Winner QF1 (1D or 2A) v Winner QF4 (1B or 2C), Q2 Stadium, Austin (7.30pm)
SF2 Winner QF2 (1A or 2D) v Winner QF3 (1C or 2B), NRG Stadium, Houston (10pm)
1 August | Las Vegas, Nevada (Final)
Final Winner SF1 v Winner SF2, Allegiant Stadium (5.30pm)
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