The CONCACAF Gold Cup is an international tournament that consist of the North/Central American and Caribbean countries. The tournament takes place every two years and is a qualifier for the FIFA Confederations Cup, another intercontinental tournament held the year before the FIFA World Cup.
The CONCACAF is not as a competitive confederation as compared to UEFA (Europe) or CONMEBOL (South America). Historically, the United States and Mexico have won 11 of the 12 Gold Cup tournaments in the last 25 years, with Canada winning in 2000. However, teams like Costa Rica, Jamaica, Panama, and Honduras have been steadily improving the last decade, as shown by their previous Gold Cup and World Cup results.
At the beginning of the Summer, my roommate and I planned a trip to attend a few games of this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup to support the United States Men’s National Team (U.S. MNT). We believed the U.S. MNT were capable of reaching the semifinals this year, given their level of play earlier in the year. With that in mind, we wanted to attend three of their potential six games: their opening group stage match in Frisco, Texas, the semi-final in Atlanta and the final (or third-place match) in Philadelphia.
The U.S. MNT’s first group stage match to open the tournament was against Honduras in Frisco, Texas. My roommate, his brother and I arrived into Dallas the night before. We hung out at a local tavern with members of the American Outlaws, Dallas chapter. We had some fun conversations with other friendly travelers and locals, particularly a nice couple from San Antonio. At the other bars, we were offered free drinks from patrons who saw our U.S. jerseys.
The game was hosted at Toyota Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s F.C. Dallas. As we arrived to the tailgating field, we ran across the same couple we met at the bar. They extended an invitation to join them, in which we gladly accepted. They had a nice set up; only tailgate with a beer pong table. The next few hours were extremely fun; socializing and kicking the ball around with others. The game ended in a 2-1 win. The U.S. MNT eventually won the group and the quarterfinal match, setting up for a trip to Atlanta.
We stayed at the Marriott Marquis in Downtown Atlanta, which was coincidentally the same hotel the U.S. players and staff lodged at. We ate dinner at a nearby restaurant called the White Oak Kitchen. We sat at the bar and made chatter with the bartenders; they made us some fun, local drinks to try that included Moonshine. The official Night Before party was held at the World of Coca-Cola building a few blocks away. My roommate and I were able to meet the former U.S. captain and player, Carlos Bocanegra. We then took an Uber to a bar the local American Outlaws were at, where we hung out for the rest of the night.
The following morning, we decided to eat at Gladys Knight’s, that served awesome southern comfort food. On the way out, we saw a few players walking around the hotel, including Gyasi Zardes, Aron Johannsson, and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. After breakfast, we strolled around Downtown Atlanta, visiting the College Football Hall of Fame and the beautiful Centennial Olympic Park. Our pregame spot was at Stats, a multi-story rooftop bar, packed with U.S. fans. From there, we marched and chanted in unison to the Georgia Dome.
The atmosphere at the stadium was intense, but unfortunately, the U.S. lost 2-1 in an upset.
Arriving in Philly, we met up and stayed with my roommate’s cousin, who had been residing in southern New Jersey temporarily. The next few days, we did some sightseeing around downtown, visiting a few attractions, museums and landmarks. At night, we stopped at various bars, hanging out with a group from Boston on one night. Some notable restaurants included Zahav, a Mediterranean restaurant featured in Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover, and the Reading Terminal Market. We also spent an extremely fun night at the redesigned Tropicana in Atlantic City.
The third-place game was held at PPL Park. Unfortunately, the U.S. lost in heartbreaking fashion after tying 1-1 and then losing 2-3 in penalties.
Note: I need to gather missing photos and video footage from my roommate.