On July 9, the U.S. men's national team faced Canada in the Gold Cup quarterfinals. It was a rematch of this summer's Nations League final and a clash of the region's two top teams, both of which went to the World Cup in Qatar.
Yet, the match wasn't the clash of titans it could have been. On the U.S. side, stars like Christian Pulisic, Folarin Balogun and Gio Reyna were long gone, having jetted away from Las Vegas after the Nations League triumph for a brief vacation before preseason. Canada, too, was missing the faces of their program, with Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Cyle Larin and Tajon Buchanan all gone for similar reasons.
It was a sign of what the Gold Cup has become: a tournament that still remains important in the CONCACAF region, but one that is deeply flawed. Gone are the days when the Gold Cup was the top prize in this region, having been replaced by the Nations League as the highest-level matches in North America. The Gold Cup has morphed, with several teams continuing to take it seriously while others utilize it as more of a proving ground.
That leaves the Gold Cup in a weird place. Is this tournament meant to be the pinnacle or just another trophy? Does this competition matter like it used to and, if not, is there any way to bring back the prestige?