Gold Cup field nearly set as four more teams book places
The field of 12 for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup is nearly set after the group stage of the Copa Centroamericana wrapped up Tuesday, leaving just one spot to be decided ahead of this summer's event
In addition to the usual suspects – Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador – there will be one new face in this summer's Gold Cup field, as minnows Belize will be making their first-ever appearance in North America's premier competition, having edged out Guatemala and Nicaragua.
The third-placed finishers in both groups, Guatemala and Panama (who lost out to El Salvador on a drawing of lots), will play off for fifth place and Central America's final berth in the Gold Cup on Friday, Jan. 25.
The rest of the field has been set for some time, as the United States, Mexico and Canada automatically qualified, with Cuba, Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti and Martinique joining them from the Caribbean in December.
Both the Honduras and Costa Rica rosters feature heavy MLS representation, while Panama also have FC Dallas forward Blas Pérez – who started both of Los Canaleros games – on the squad list.
The Columbus Crew's Jairo Arrieta enjoyed a particularly strong group stage, starting and scoring in both Costa Rica's 1-0 opening win over Belize and the Ticos' 1-1 draw with Guatemala, before coming off the bench in their 2-0 win over Nicaragua. Portland's Rodney Wallace featured in the final two games for Costa Rica after coming off the bench in the first, but RSL's Álvaro Saborío did not see the field after starting the opener.
In Group B, the healthy part of Honduras' MLS contingent started both games for Los Catrachos. New England's Jerry Bengtson scored in the 1-1 draw with Panama, while Houston's Boniek García set up a goal in Tuesday's 1-1 draw against El Salvador. San Jose defender Víctor Bernárdez and Seattle midfielder Mario Martínez also featured for Honduras, though San Jose's Marvin Chávez missed out through injury.
The semifinals of the tournament kick off on Friday, with Honduras facing Belize and Costa Rica taking on El Salvador, with the final and third-place matches set for Sunday.