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Gold Cup: Canada and the U.S. to rumble in Motown

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Canada couldn’t have asked for a tougher opponent to face in its 2011 Gold Cup opener.

But playing the United States in Detroit is a public- and fan-relations bonanza. Canada will face the Americans June 7 at Ford Field, just a skip across the border. This means that fans in Southern Ontario have the chance to see Canada against the best CONCACAF has to offer, just by crossing the Ambassador Bridge from Windsor into the Motor City.

Ford Field will have natural grass installed over the turf for the games. Tickets go on sale March 16 ($20, $30, $50, $60, $80 and $100, all figures US)

The Gold Cup is a seeded tournament; games don’t get scheduled at the mercy of the draw. CONCACAF has already experimented with putting Canadian games in cities close to the border. In 2005, Canada played in Seattle, close to Vancouver. CONCACAF was aware that it wanted to go to a different border city this time, to access another Canadian region. Detroit is much, much, much closer to the Canadian border than Seattle is. (As in, right on it)

“It’s a new city, with different access (to Canada),” said CONCACAF General Secretary Chuck Blazer. “We talk about access to the Windsor area and that part of the country.”

Canada’s most (in)famous Gold Cup match against the Americans came in 2007. Trailing 2-1 in extra time, Atiba Hutchinson looked to have equalized at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Hutchinson pounced on a poor header from American defender Oguchi Onyewu and beat keeper Kasey Keller with the shot. But the goal was disallowed for offside, even though replays showed Hutchinson wasn’t ahead of the last line of defence and he had pounced on what could be interpreted as a back pass from an opposing player.

It’s a plum match-up. For Canada, getting out of Group C will require results against Guadaloupe and Panama; by getting the Americans out of the way first, the Canadians will know what they need to do in their final two games.

The draw was also kind to Canada in the way the U.S. schedule breaks down. It plays Panama, who will provide Canada’s stiffest competition to make it out of Group C, second and Guadaloupe third. The last thing anada would have wanted was the U.S. to have salted away its playoff spot after two games and then have coach Bob Bradley rest key starters against Panama.

Blazer defended the policy of seeding the tournament — and scheduling it based on the performances of the teams and previous Gold Cup matchups — rather than going to a draw. He said draws will always create strong groups and weak groups.

“Is there a group of death here?” said Blazer. “I don’t think so.”

The Gold Cup launched in 1991 in two stadiums. This year, 13 venues will be used, and Blazer is hopeful that attendance will break the 500,000 mark. With Mexico opening at the behemoth Cowboys Stadium, it’s possible CONCACAF could get more than 80,000 on day one of the tournament.

GROUP A: Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Cuba
GROUP B: Honduras, Guatemala, Jamaica, Grenada
GROUP C: USA, Canada, Panamá, Guadeloupe

First Round
Sunday, June 5 – Cowboys Stadium (Arlington, TX)

Costa Rica vs. Cuba, 5 p.m. (6 p.m. EDT)
Mexico vs. El Salvador, 7 p.m. (8 p.m. EDT)

Monday, June 6 – The Home Depot Center (Carson, CA)
Jamaica vs. Grenada, 6 p.m. (9 p.m. EDT)
Honduras vs. Guatemala, 8 p.m. (11 p.m. EDT)

Tuesday, June 7 – Ford Field (Detroit, MI)
Panama vs. Guadeloupe, 6 p.m. (6 p.m. EDT)
USA vs. Canada, 8 p.m. (8 p.m. EDT)

Thursday, June 9 – Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, NC)
Costa Rica vs. El Salvador, 7 p.m. (7 p.m. EDT)
Cuba vs. Mexico, 9 p.m. (9 p.m. EDT)

Friday, June 10 – FIU Stadium (Miami, FL)
Jamaica vs. Guatemala, 7 p.m. (7 p.m. EDT)
Grenada vs. Honduras, 9 p.m. (9 p.m. EDT)

Saturday, June 11 – Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, FL)
Canada vs. Guadeloupe, 6 p.m. (6 p.m. EDT)
USA vs. Panama, 8 p.m. (8 p.m. EDT)

Sunday, June 12 – Soldier Field (Chicago, IL)
El Salvador vs. Cuba, 5 p.m. (6 p.m. EDT)
Mexico vs. Costa Rica, 7 p.m. (8 p.m. EDT)

Monday, June 13 – Red Bull Arena (Harrison, NJ)
Guatemala vs. Grenada, 7 p.m. (7 p.m. EDT)
Honduras vs. Jamaica, 9 p.m. (9 p.m. EDT)

Tuesday, June 14 – Sporting Park (Kansas City, KS)
Canada vs. Panama, 6 p.m. (7 p.m. EDT)
Guadeloupe vs. USA, 8 p.m. (9 p.m. EDT)

Saturday, June 18 – New Meadowlands Stadium (East Rutherford, NJ)

Group A runner-up vs. Group B runner-up, TBD (x)
Group A winner vs. Group B/C third-place, TBD (x)
x-matches scheduled for 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. local (5 p.m. and 8 p.m. EDT) with order TBD

Sunday, June 19 – Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington DC)
Group B winner vs. Group C runner-up, TBD (y)
Group C winner vs. Group A/B third place, TBD (y)
y-matches scheduled for 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. local (3 p.m. and 6 p.m. EDT) with order TBD

Wednesday, June 22 – Reliant Stadium (Houston, TX)

x-quarterfinal winners, TBD (z)
y-quarterfinal winners, TBD (z)
z-matches scheduled for 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. local (7 p.m. and 10 p.m. EDT) with order TBD

Saturday, June 25 – Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA)

Semifinal winners, 6 p.m. (9 p.m. EDT)

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