Teams at this summer's Gold Cup may want to pack light. The men's soccer tournament is being played in a record 13 U.S. venues, meaning squads will be on the move for every game.
Unfortunately Canada will be doing little travelling to prepare for the 12-country tournament July 3-26. Coach Dale Mitchell confirmed Monday that Canada's warmup for the CONCACAF championship will be a May 30 game in Cyprus followed by a training camp.
FIFA has two international match dates for friendlies March 28-April 1 but Canada is not taking advantage.
"I would prefer to be playing on every international date, but it's not possible this year," Mitchell said Monday from Trinidad and Tobago where he is taking in the CONCACAF under-20 qualifying tournament.
Budget issues seem to be the problem. Canada, ranked 88th in the world and eighth among CONCACAF countries, has not played since finishing a disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign with a 3-0 loss in Jamaica on Nov. 19.
The Gold Cup is Canada's most important competition other than World Cup qualifying.
CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, has opted to divide its biennial championship among 13 cities, more than twice the previous high.
Doubleheaders will be played in 12 cities with the 13th - Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. - hosting the championship game.
The first round will take place July 3-12 in Los Angeles (Home Depot Center), Seattle (Qwest Field), San Francisco (Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum), Columbus, Ohio (Crew Stadium), Washington (RFK Stadium), Houston (Reliant Stadium), Miami (Florida International University Stadium), Foxboro, Mass. (Gillette Stadium) (Boston) and Phoenix (University of Phoenix Stadium).
The July 18-19 quarter-finals will be in Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field) and the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium. CONCACAF said the soccer match will be the first ever sporting event in the Cowboys' new home in Arlington, Texas
The July 23 semifinals are set for Chicago's Soldier Field.
Blazer hinted Mexico's route could take it through Texas to take advantage of the showcase game in the Cowboys' stadium. Seattle could be a likely opening destination for Canada.
CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer said increasing the number of venues may actually help during the economic downturn because the tournament won't be asking the same fan base to dig into their pockets for more than one game.
In reality it plays to the fact that people are going to save their money, they're going to use their money frugally," he said.
But Mitchell said coaches won't be as enthusiastic about the added travel.
"To be hopping around like that, I think if you talk to most of the coaches, they'd probably prefer to be in one city," he said.
Blazer said there had been "early consideration" about staging a game in Canada but the idea was shelved because it was too complicated because of visas and other logistical reasons. Plus past games in Mexico proved too be unsuccessful unless the Mexican team was involved.
Games will be played on synthetic surfaces in four stadiums: Seattle, Miami, Foxboro and Arlington. Grass will be laid over the existing artificial surface for the final in Giants Stadium.
The Gold Cup was played in six different cities in its two most recent editions, including two venues in Los Angeles area in 2005 (Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Home Depot Center).
The draw for the tournament will be made 30 to 40 days from now, CONCACAF said.
The field will feature Canada, Mexico and the U.S. from the region's North Zone; Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua from Central America; and Jamaica, Grenada, Guadeloupe and Haiti from the Caribbean.
Cuba had qualified but CONCACAF said asked to withdraw, citing "developmental aspects." Haiti beat out Trinidad and Tobago in a draw to replace the Cubans.
Two years ago, a pair of Cuban players failed to show for a first-round game at Houston and defected. But Blazer said that had not prompted Cuba's decision.
"There are legitimate issues that the Cubans had," Blazer said on a conference call.
The tournament has been extended a day because of the extra travel due to the number of host cities.
"The entire group travels together so there is no disadvantage of one team to the other," said Blazer.
In recent tournaments, teams stayed in the same venue for two of their three first-round games. The venue for the third match doubled as the quarter-final site. In the third group, which included Canada, the teams played all three opening pool games in Miami and then moved on to another site for a quarter-final.
Canada made it to the semifinals in the 2007 tournament, losing to the eventual champion Americans 2-1 before more than 50,000 at Soldier Field. Midfielder Julian de Guzman was named the tournament's MVP.
The Canadians, under manager Holger Osieck, won the event in 2000 and finished third in 2002. Osieck quit in 2003 after Canada crashed out in the first round. Canada also failed to make the knockout rounds in 2005.