What you need to know about Wednesday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer games at Bank of America Stadium

What you need to know about Wednesday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer games at Bank of America Stadium
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The Women’s World Cup is over, but on the men’s side another tournament is just beginning: the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Wow, that’s a big acronym!

It stands for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football and you don’t have to hear it again. This tournament happens every two years and while it might not get the worldwide attention of the World Cup or the European Championship, it is an important tournament for the US Men’s team and all of the other nations in our region.

The winners of the 2013 and the 2015 Gold Cup will compete in a one-off playoff for a place in the FIFA Confederations Cup – a tournament in 2017 between the best team from each region around the world.

For us Charlotteans, we’re in luck.

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The Gold Cup is coming to Bank of America Stadium on Wednesday and for spectators wanting to watch in person, it’s a steal. Tickets are still on sale starting at $35 and it’s a doubleheader – two for the price of one!

At 6pm, Cuba will face Guatemala and at 8:30 fans can see Mexico play Trinidad & Tobago.

Yes, the US isn’t playing here in our beautiful Queen City, but we’ll still get to see some great soccer being played right in our own backyard. Hosting the Gold Cup is part of a big push by the city to hold two soccer events at Bank of America Stadium each year and each opportunity is a chance to show off our beautiful city to fans from around the region.

Wednesday’s games will be the final matchday of the Group Stage. The top two teams from each group automatically qualify and the two best third-place teams will also move on, so there’s a lot of play for on Wednesday at Bank of America Stadium.

Guatemala battled to earn a draw against Mexico last night, forcing Mexico to need a win on Wednesday night to win the group like they were predicted to. Guatemala will look to get a win (and a big one against Cuba) so that if Mexico loses on Wednesday they can get through. Trinidad & Tobago have won their first two games and therefore guaranteed their place in the next round, so while they might not need a result, they’ll love to play spoiler to Mexico, the perceived powerhouse in the tournament. I

n short, there’s plenty of drama and narrative to come on Wednesday night and any scoreline will bring jubilation from fans in the stadium.

Players to keep an eye on

Carlos Vela (Mexico) – Vela plays in Spain with Real Sociedad, but the fun narrative for Vela is that he has been refusing call-ups to the Mexican National Team since 2011 for a variety of reasons. He only recently began playing with the national team again and it’ll be fun to see what he brings to his first big tournament with El Tri.

Joevin Jones (Trinidad & Tobago) – Jones is only 23 years old, but is already one of the players to be considered a veteran for the T&T national team. Jones plays professionally stateside, plying his trade with the Chicago Fire. He’s a promising young player that fans should keep an eye on to see if he has a breakout tournament for the small island nation.

Marco Pappa (Guatemala) – Pappa also plays in MLS, a regular starter for the Seattle Sounders. He’s already notched two goals and five assists halfway through the MLS season and will help lead the Guatemalan attack alongside forward Carlos Ruiz.

Ariel Martinez (Cuba) – It’s hard to keep up with the Cuban National Team, partially because they’re such minnows in the international game and also because of problems like losing players almost every time they travel stateside to defection. Ariel Martinez scored a hat-trick in the last Gold Cup, putting himself on the region’s radar and will most likely be a big part of Cuba’s push to try to get out of a tough group for them.

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Where to watch:

If you end up not at Bank of America Stadium to watch in person, you can watch the games live on Fox Sports 2. If you’re a cord cutter or just don’t have the channel, here’s some great places to watch the game out on the town:

Courtyard Hooligans – the best soccer bar in town. French Quarter, across from Romare Bearden Park. No food, but feel free to grab some takeout from places like Valahalla Pub or the French Quarter Restaurant and watch the game at Hooligans.

The Belfast Mill – another great bar right beside Hooligans with its own charm. Similar food situation, so try something new and eat out on the cobblestone path.

Piedmont Social House – for those of you who maybe aren’t in an Uptown mood, check out this brand new place in Ayrsley. Bowling, billiards, multiple bars, huge outdoor seating and TVs everywhere to catch the game. The perfect place if you want to keep your eye on the game while also socializing with friends.

The Brass Tap – another new place that I love, this time in South End. Brass Tap has a huge selection of beer, a great food selection and TVs both inside and out on the patio. Wednesday night is also Trivia Night and half bottle of wine night, so if that makes it an easier sell to your significant others, you’re welcome.

I’ll be back in just a few weeks to talk about the second of those events – Chelsea vs. Paris Saint-Germain.

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In the meantime, get your tickets for Wednesday, track down Fox Sports 2 on your cable package, or call up your friends and make plans to hit the town on Wednesday night.

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