CONCACAF Gold Cup Odds, Picks, Predictions: Mexico, United States Headline Title Hopefuls
Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: United States soccer fans attend a recent match.
The CONCACAF Gold Cup starts Saturday, giving bettors who have enjoyed the exhilaration of Euro 2020 and Copa America tournaments another chance to wager on high-stakes continental competition this summer.
However, there’s a catch. Like the CONCACAF region itself, understanding the Gold Cup takes a perspective that’s informed in the federation’s nuances and history.
There is plenty of value to be had in this showcase, as Mexico, Canada, United States and others vie to be considered the best team in the North America, Central America and Caribbean regions.
It just looks different than value in the rest of the soccer world.
CONCACAF Gold Cup Odds
Odds as of July 8 via DraftKings
|Trinidad & Tobago||+10000|
CONCACAF is an extremely top-heavy region. North American giants Mexico and the United States have historically dominated the second tier of nations. And that second tier has also dominated those in the third and below.
You see this in the lack of parity in the odds. In terms of tiers, a good parallel to Jamaica’s group match against Suriname might be Sweden’s opener against Slovakia at the Euro 2020 tournament.
Gold Cup 2021 Dates
- Group Stage: July 10-20
- Quarterfinals: July 24-25
- Semifinals: July 29
- Final: August 1
Also, everything about the Gold Cup appears favored to benefit the heavyweights.
Contesting each group in a space of nine days or fewer gives the clear edge to deeper squads. Both U.S. and Mexico reliably enjoy stadiums full of their own fans through group play. Plus, the event is organized in such a way that it’s highly unlikely Mexico and the U.S. would meet before the final.
Despite all this engineering that feels a little more like boxing than international soccer, the tournament still produces compelling matches, storylines and moments.
For example, Jamaica reached consecutive Gold Cup finals in 2015 and 2017. And Haiti made a Cinderella run to the semifinals two years ago.
As always, it’s the story of the Rio Grande rivalry in this one, with Mexico or U.S. combining to win 14 of the 15 Gold Cups that have been contested since the tournament launched in 1991.
Tata Martino isn’t messing around in by calling in nearly his best squad.
That includes a handful of European stars: Forwards Hirving Lozano (Napoli) and Jesus Corona (Porto), midfielder Héctor Herrera (Atlético Madrid) and defenders Nestor Araujo (Celta Vigo) and Edson Alvarez (Ajax).
Major League Soccer fans will also know the Los Angeles Galaxy’s Jonathan dos Santos and Efrain Alvarez, as well as Sporting Kansas City striker Alan Pulido. The most notable absences are goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and Galaxy striker and MLS scoring co-leader Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.
The former is one of three over-age players competing at the Tokyo Olympics. The latter appears to be in Martino’s doghouse.
Trouble finishing at the CONCACAF Nations League only heightened calls from Mexican media for Martino and Chicharito to make amends. That storyline is also magnified because Wolverhampton’s Raul Jimenez — Mexico’s best out-and-out striker — still hasn’t played a competitive match since a nasty facial injury he suffered last fall.
None the matter, Mexico is still the play here, with a squad that’s a considerable distance ahead of the American roster.
United States (+160)
Unlike Martino, Gregg Berhalter has opted to keep his squad focused primarily (though not entirely) on MLS-based players.
That means no Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) or Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig) in the front six, as well as Zack Steffen (Manchester City) missing in goal.
The biggest reason to watch this team? To see how Orlando City striker Daryl Dike performs in international play after his highly successful loan spell to Barnsley of the second-tier English Championship.
There’s still enough quality and experience that this team should advance to the semifinals. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), winger Paul Arriola (D.C. United), center back Walker Zimmerman (Nashville) and striker Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew) are among those who have been here before.
However, I’m not sure they’re worth backing to win their group at -250 odds, let alone to win the title. It might be more likely they fail to reach the final than win the championship.
There’s a few teams that could seize the chance at a Cinderella run, most likely at the Americans’ expense.
The Canadians aren’t third favorites, but only because they have the hardship of playing against the U.S. in Group B. That will likely ship them to the same half of the knockout stage bracket as Mexico should they advance.
Yet, Canada is much closer to full strength, with Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies and Besiktas’ Cyle Larin leading the charge. Lille striker Jonathan David is absent, but other regulars are here.
New England’s Tajon Buchanan, Toronto FC’s Jonathan Osorio and Vancouver’s Lucas Cavallini are among those who will give Canada’s attack more breadth than it has had in years.
A futures bet to win it all might be worth it for hedging purposes. And I bought them at +300 to win Group B, such is my doubt over the state of Berhalter’s U.S. roster.
Costa Rica (+1400)
The Ticos have been the de facto third-best team in the region over the past decade, but Gold Cup success continues to escape them. Their only final appearance came back in 2002, and they last reached the semifinals in 2017.
This squad deserves respect, though, with a roster similar to that which played Mexico to a draw (before losing on penalties) at the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals in June.
However, with leaders like Bryan Ruiz, Celso Borges and Bryan Oviedo on the other side of 30 years old, the event’s compact schedule might be challenging.
Manager Theo Whitmore’s project is an interesting one as he continues scouring Europe and the rest of the globe for players with Jamaican eligibility. The question is whether he can blend those with others whose roots are in the Western Hemisphere.
The 2015 team that lost the final to Mexico was built mostly from English-based talent. The 2017 team leaned far more on players in the American soccer pyramid. This bunch is a hybrid.
There’s not enough track record here for me to bet them, but they have quality, including Bayer Leverkusen attacker Leon Bailey, Toronto FC fullback Kemar Lawrence and reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake of Philadelphia.
I’m too ignorant to give an informed analysis on the Asian guests, but this is their competitive preparation for hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, so they’ll be taking it very seriously.
Final Analysis & Thoughts
Almost every game will be contested in a warm-weather climate in the depth of the U.S. summer. A few will be played in climate-controlled stadiums, but most of those will come in the knockout phase.
I’m not sure if the heat benefits one team over another since this is a region accustomed to climate challenges. However, it could impact wagering on total goals. The heat could lead some teams to keep things very compact and limit their energy expenditure or could lead to a lot of open spaces.
While the U.S. is the host nation, several teams will enjoy the feeling of a home-field advantage. Mexico typically has more of its fans on hand in every game it plays in this tournament, including if it meets the U.S. in the final.
Jamaica will enjoy plenty of support from the surrounding expat community when it plays in Orlando. Honduras will do the same at its group matches in Houston.