The USMNT’s Gold Cup run ended with a penalty shootout loss to Panama, leaving Mexico to win their ninth championship on the day Lionel Messi signed with Inter Miami. Here are the winners, losers, and hopefuls of the USMNT’s mundane Gold Cup performance.
In one of the most insignificant CONCACAF Gold Cups in recent memory, Mexico was able to stop the bleeding and win their ninth tournament title with a 1-0 win over Panama. Mexico came into the tournament on life support after firing their coach and losing to the United States men’s national team in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal.
The ninth title won by El Tri ranks them two Gold Cups ahead of the USMNT, who sent a B-squad — more like C-squad — to the tournament. The Americans were eliminated by Panama in a semifinal where the team looked winded and without any ideas going forward.
In the middle of the region’s premier international tournament, the eyes of the soccer world were in Fort Lauderdale as Lionel Messi was officially presented as a player for MLS side Inter Miami. The fact that the U.S. team that barely put together a respectable roster for the cup, combined with Messi’s announcement, took a lot of juice away from El Tri’s big championship.
In that context, BJ Callaghan shouldered the blame as his U.S. squad could not break down Panama, stating in a press conference, “These are all challenges, and each team has different challenges that they have to face, and we continually work and then we talk about how we’re going to respond to them. So, for me, it’s part of what happens when you are in the group stage and knockout games. You deal with a lot of different factors, and you have to learn how to deal with it, and we were able to get a lot of experience in doing it.”
If the USMNT learned anything from the Gold Cup, it was that there is a major gap between its top roster and everything that comes after it. The CONCACAF region is in such dire straits that this USMNT team still managed to make it to the semifinals of the tournament with relative ease, despite having to defeat Canada on penalties in the round of 16.
With the Gold Cup officially out of the way, U.S. Soccer and the USMNT can now move on to the second part of the Gregg Berhalter era, which will kick off in September, and is set to end the year in November with key matches in the Nations League quarterfinals that determine who qualifies to the 2024 Copa America.
Barring a disaster, the USMNT should be in the 2024 continental tournament, and should also answer a handful of roster questions after the October friendlies against Germany and Ghana.
Berhalter did not coach the team in the Gold Cup, as his mind is on “bigger issues” according to U.S. Soccer, although what those issues are have yet to be made public. Still the incoming manager can take these notes into consideration as he works towards having the USMNT upset many in Copa America and the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Winners of the Gold Cup
The Arsenal netminder won the starting position a little over a year ago, and with the Gold Cup continues to cement that he is the No. 1 goalkeeper for the team.
He started strong but slowed as the tournament progressed, however Brian Reynolds still has a lot of quality and if his club situation improves, he could beat out a few players on the national team.
Despite a few hiccups in the tournament, Miles Robinson with better quality around him will be a major contributor in defense for the U.S.
If his progression continues to go upward and he lands on a good European club, Jalen Neal could beat out a few in the USMNT defense. All the qualities are there to play in the Berhalter system.
Gianluca Busio is a hard worker with great passing and shooting qualities. Down the pecking order, the former Sporting Kansas City midfielder could challenge for a place on the A team if he improves his club standing.
Two hat tricks and a clutch goal against Panama, Jesús Ferreira did his job of staying relevant, but with the top strikers of the USMNT now playing in Europe, he needs to find a proper landing spot in the old country soon. Still Ferreira is a Berhalter player, but if his other counterparts start off strong it’s hard to justify his inclusion on a top roster.
Hopefuls of the Gold Cup
He could really be the fourth USMNT striker in the depth chart. Brandon Vázquez gives the position something different than Folarin Balogun, Ricardo Pepi, and Josh Sargent. He’s a target striker and could be useful when the game call for crosses in the box.
Djordje Mihailovic started the tournament well, but wilted as the games got more challenging. It will be hard for him to get into the A squad unless he tears it up in the Netherlands this season.
Still very green, Cade Cowell will need to showcase more at the club level to get a sniff at the full national team.
Losers of the Gold Cup
Cristian Roldan, Jordan Morris, and Aaron Long
These three have nothing to offer the national team anymore at this point. There are simply more talented players in Europe and in MLS to consider.
One bad game after another, no one’s stock plummeted more than the Club America winger.
I still don’t understand the effort to incorporate Alan Soñora, when other players are more deserving of a call up before the Argentine-American.
The confederation can’t keep having back-to-back tournaments like they do. Clearly having the U.S. skip one does little to keep the competition interesting. For the 2030 cycle it would be in the best interest to find a way for the Nations League to end in one summer and the Gold Cup to be played in the next.