There’s no gold standard in this soccer tourney

After more than a week of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, suffice it to say this soccer tournament is indicative of everything going on in North America right now. In other words, it sucks.

This is not one of those “I hate soccer” columns. It’s an “I love international soccer” one. No, it’s a “For soccer to continue to grow in popularity in the United States, you can’t expect people to watch this schlock” opinion. Gold is simply too precious a metal for a cup that clearly none of the bigger countries care about.

Of the 12 nations invited to participate in this alleged showcase of North American soccer, the United States and Mexico purposefully didn’t include their top players in pool play. They had reasons that made some sense. The Mexicans sent their best players last month to Russia for the Confederations Cup, a precursor to the World Cup. The Confederation Cup finished July 2. Mexico started Gold Cup on July 9.

Oh wait. That’s plenty of time to get over jet lag.

The Americans, meanwhile, sent their B team because they didn’t want to tucker out the first unit for World Cup qualifying later this year.

Golly, the more I think about it, these are craptacular excuses.

You know what’s also craptacular? The fact that only four of 12 teams were eliminated in pool play. Two-thirds advancing is similar to allowing the Cincinnati Bengals (6-9-1) into the NFL playoffs. The four “nations” that were eliminated? Two of them are so insignificant they played the French national anthem before their games. If nobody cares enough to write a song about your country, you have no business on the stage, Johan.

Oh sure. Now that the knockout round kicks off Wednesday — with eight countries that you’ve heard of — CONCACAF has allowed the surviving teams to reboot their rosters. The Mexicans and the United States were too happy to do so, with players you’ve heard of. The Americans swapped six front liners.

They shouldn’t get to do that. It’s kind of a punk move and I root for the U.S.

If the Gold Cup is merely a minor league version of World Cup qualifying, that’s fine. There are soccer junkies like me willing to see the next generation of players from Mexico and the U.S. who will get stomped by the Germans or Brazilians.

But at least be up front about it. Send your best or develop new talent. You don’t get to do both.

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