Unsurprisingly, I'm a few days behind on this story, but it's worth posting anyway. The Gold Cup groups have been announced (the term 'draw' does not really apply in the case of CONCACAF) and they are as follows:
Group A: Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Cuba
Group B: Honduras, Guatemala, Jamaica, Grenada
Group C: USA, Panama, Canada, Guadeloupe
The biggest storyline for Canadian fans is the opening clash against the USA at Ford Field in Detroit. The last time these two teams met at the Gold Cup this happened. You can't really say that Canada will be out to get revenge, as the Americans can hardly be faulted for poor officiating, but undoubtedly that match will linger in the mind of the Canuck support.
And with the match being played in a border town, and a few hour's drive from this country's largest city, there is a good chance of a large-ish Canadian contingent, even if the match is on a Tuesday night. The Voyageurs have secured a block of 200 seats in a prime position and if you'd like to sit with the hardcores, buy your tickets now.
I don't think I'll be making the trip to Ford Field, but the final group match in Kansas City has me intrigued. Of the 2011 host cities, Kansas City is the closest to my hometown at a mere 13 hours drive (and a rather uncomplicated one as well). The match is against Panama, and will very likely decide whether Canada advances to the quarterfinal rounds.
You see, while Canada's match with the USA will get all the attention, it is not one that Canada should reasonably expect to win. USA's FIFA rank might be a tad inflated, but they are a class above Canada. Guadeloupe are the minnows of the group and Canada and Panama should both win that match without too much trouble. Second place could very well decided on June 14th in KC.
Guadeloupe's inclusion in Group C is a minor misfortune. Though Canada's history against this island nation is dire, this is still a match the team should expect to win. The drawback is that Guadeloupe are not FIFA members so the match would not gain them valuable ranking points in advance of the World Cup draw.
Briefly, I've seen a bit of chatter on the twitter and the boards that Canada's Group C is the Group of Death. Any time Canadian fans make this claim, we are probably giving our own team more respect than they deserve. While Canada would likely fare better if they swapped spots with, say, Jamaica in Group B, the likes of Panama and Guadeloupe are hardly world beaters. Canada should advance from this group and I expect them to do so.
It all still feels a little far away, but with Toronto and Vancouver kicking things off in MLS next weekend, the Voyageurs Cup opener in less than 50 days, and the Gold Cup starting in under 3 months, Canada's summer of soccer is looming on the horizon.