(Reuters) - There are few countries where a men’s national team can be overshadowed by its women’s side but Juergen Klinsmann’s United States face the task of grabbing public attention back for this week’s CONCACAF Gold Cup start.
The Americans won the Women’s World Cup on Sunday with a 5-2 triumph over Japan, watched by a reported 25 million fans on television, but on Tuesday Klinsmann’s U.S. men’s team kick off their attempt to defend their regional title.
There will be a fraction of the audience for the opening group game against Honduras in Frisco, Texas, but Klinsmann knows his side will be expected to outshine CONCACAF rivals Mexico and Costa Rica to win their sixth Gold Cup.
“It is very, very important to us obviously to do everything possible to win this competition. Winning it would qualify us for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, so putting the pieces together is very crucial,” said Klinsmann.
The Americans have been placed with Honduras, Haiti and Panama in Group A in the 12-nation tournament which concludes with a final in Philadelphia on July 26.
Mexico, who with six titles are the most successful team in CONCACAF competition, will present, as usual, the strongest challenge to Klinsmann’s team.
Real Sociedad forward Carlos Vela has ended his dispute with the Mexican federation which led to him missing the World Cup last year and is back in the squad for the tournament.
But ‘El Tri’ will be without striker Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez who broke a collar bone in a friendly against Honduras last week. The Mexicans are in Group C with Cuba, Guatemala and Trinidad & Tobago.
A tournament win for Mexico would force a playoff against the United States for a place in the 2017 Confederations Cup. The U.S won the 2013 Gold Cup and if they triumph again they will take the CONCACAF spot in Russia.
After Costa Rica’s exploits at the World Cup in Brazil last year, where they reached the quarter-finals for the first time, the Central American nation believe they have a chance to win their first Gold Cup.
The best finish for the Ticos, who face El Salvador, Canada and Jamaica in Group B, was a runners-up spot in 2002.
The top two teams from each group qualify for the knockout phase along with the two best third-placed teams.
Reporting by Simon Evans