- Keith Hickey

The last time the CONCACAF Gold Cup was here, it came as an addendum, an afterthought to the FIFA Confederations Cup. Watching the B team take on Haiti and Panama was hardly an exciting prospect compared to playing Italy, Spain, Brazil, or Egypt. Getting our proverbial backsides handed to us by Mexico on our own turf didn't help our estimation of the competition, either.

And it's disappointing that the Gold Cup was treated as such, because it does matter, and it should matter. For all the faults that CONCACAF has (and these I lay squarely at the feet of Jack Warner, not that the hateful crook gives two Jonathan Bornsteins), the Gold Cup is our continental championship. We should treat it with the same reverence with which the people in UEFA and CONMEBOL nations treat the Euros and the Copa America.

Moreover, it's our best bet for raising the quality of play in the region. Forget Jack Warner's power base of tiny Caribbean islets, the potential of CONCACAF lies in the larger nations, mostly in North and Central America. It's the improvement of Canada and Guatemala, rather than Sint Maarten or Saint-Martin, that will spur the U.S. to get better. Having these teams play games that matter will be valuable experiences.

And while reforms should be made to the current format (someone other than the U.S. should host, I'm thinking either Mexico or Canada could do it; a four year cycle would increase the prestige and allow for the rigor of real qualifying) they're unlikely under the corrupt and greedy regime of Jack Warner.

But kleptocrats aside, our team will still be contesting the tournament, and on home turf, it's one we can and should expect to win. Losing to Mexico (or anybody else) should not be tolerated. Perhaps Bob Bradley's job should be on the line. That way, he will not treat the tournament wish such a disdainful and cavalier attitude as he did the last time around. The Gold Cup should be treated like a championship, not a warm-up or a tryout.
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