The United States Men's National Team punched its ticket to a record 12th Gold Cup Final on Thursday as Sporting Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busio helped the Americans to a hard-fought 1-0 semifinal victory over Qatar at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas.
Making his fifth straight tournament appearance and his fourth consecutive start for the U.S. MNT, Busio exited after 63 minutes with the game still goalless. Three second-half substitutes combined for the breakthrough goal in the 86th minute as Eryk Williamson and Kansas City native Nicholas Gioacchini combined neatly to set up the on-rushing Gyasi Zardes, who finished from seven yards to seal the triumph.
Busio, a 19-year-old Sporting Kansas City Academy product, contributed to a stout defensive effort that saw the U.S. MNT claim its fourth shutout of the tournament and stymy a dangerous Qatar outfit that entered the evening with a tournament-best 12 goals. The Americans were also spared blushes in the second half when Qatar captain Hasan Al Haydos lifted his penalty kick over the crossbar.
Busio and the United States will now prepare for a titanic championship showdown against Sporting Kansas City striker Alan Pulido and Mexico on Sunday. The Mexicans earned their spot in the final Thursday night after sinking Canada in a 2-1 thriller at NRG Stadium in Houston. Pulido was an unused substitute in a game that remained all square at 1-1 until the ninth minute of second-half stoppage time when Hector Herrera salvaged a dramatic last-gasp winner.
Sunday's highly anticipated Gold Cup Final at sold-out Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas will see either Busio or Pulido hoist their first major title at the senior international level. Scheduled for 8 p.m. CT, the must-see matchup will be shown live nationally in English on FS1 and the FOX Sports app and in Spanish on Univision, TUDN and the TUDN app.
With a scintillating championship match on the horizon, Busio is uniquely positioned to make history on Sunday. If he starts against Mexico, he will tie Panama’s Roberto Chen as the youngest Concacaf player to start a Gold Cup Final at 19 years and 65 days.
With Busio and Pulido squaring off in the final, one of them is guaranteed to join the group of Sporting players below who won the Concacaf Gold Cup while representing the club:
- Tony Meola (2002)
- Jimmy Conrad (2005)
- Josh Wolff (2005)
- Eddie Johnson (2007)
- Matt Besler (2013, 2017)
- Dom Dwyer (2017)
- Graham Zusi (2017)
Of the players listed above, Conrad, Wolff, Besler and Zusi all played in their respective finals. Meola, Johnson and Dwyer were unused substitutes.
Also of note, the U.S. MNT is now 25-6-3 in 33 matches under head coach Gregg Berhalter. He has reached 25 victories faster than any other U.S. MNT head coach.
Held every two years, the Gold Cup is the regional championship for Concacaf and just like in the European Championships and Copa America, lifting the trophy brings prestige and regional supremacy. Sunday will mark the seventh time that the U.S. and Mexico have met in the Gold Cup Final, with El Tri winning five of six including a 1-0 result in the 2019 final. The Americans' lone victory over Mexico in the Gold Cup Final came in 2007 when longtime Sporting great Benny Feilhaber bagged a sensational long-range strike to clinch an unforgettable 2-1 triumph.
Over the course of 15 previous Gold Cup tournaments, the United States has lifted the trophy six times (1991, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2017), just behind all-time leaders Mexico with eight (1993, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2019). Canada is the only other tournament champion, coming away with the title in 2000.