That's so CONCACAF: The six most incredible upsets in Gold Cup history
That's what's expected again this year, even with both sides bringing B-teams to the regional championship, which kicks off Friday and will crown a victor July 26 in Santa Clara, California.
Delve a little deeper, and the Gold Cup has a history of stunning results, a few of them in finals – hello, Canada! – but usually in a semifinal.
Here are the Gold Cup's six most jaw-dropping upsets:
6. Panama 2, Mexico 1 (2013 Group A and semifinals)
Panama had never beaten El Tri in a competitive match before claiming two deserved victories in 2013, both of which require context. Historically, they were huge triumphs for Los Canaleros, whose opening-day domination – and Mexico's indifferent form most of the tournament – appointed them consensus favorites in the final-four rematch.
Mexico was in an interesting place when the 2013 Gold Cup rolled up: just one win in its first five 2014 World Cup qualifiers, just two victories in the 11 preceding matches since New Years. Critics already were calling for head coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre's job, more so after this Gold Cup, and he was gone after falling to Honduras in a World Cup qualifier at Azteca a couple of months later.
De la Torre brought a B-team to this Gold Cup, but it featured a half-dozen on the roster – Marco Fabian, Miguel Layun, Miguel Angel Ponce, Jonathan Orozco, Carlos Peña and Isaac Brizuela – who would make the team for the 2014 World Cup.
Panama played El Tri off the park in the first game, in front of 56,822 at the Rose Bowl, behind two goals from Gabriel Torres, and it could have ended 4-1.
The second meeting, before 81,410 at Cowboys Stadium, wasn't all that different from the first: Blas Perez tallied early, Luis Montes pulled Mexico even with a diving header not long after, and Roman Torres headed home the winner from Gabriel Torres' 61st-minute corner kick. Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo made two miraculous saves in the final half-hour to secure the victory and earn an LA Galaxy contract.
The U.S. toppled Panama in the title game, on Brek Shea's second-half goal, but this tournament – and the wins over Mexico – was a massive step in Panama's rise as a CONCACAF contender.
5. United States 2, Mexico 1 (1991 semifinals)
The start of CONCACAF's greatest rivalry? Right here. The U.S., winners just once in 28 meetings with its southern neighbor since claiming the 1934 World Cup qualifier in the initial clash, shocked Mexico on goals by John Doyle and Peter Vermes, one of the most significant victories in American soccer history.
It was vital, of course, in the Yanks claiming their first international soccer championship just two days later, with a penalty-kicks triumph after a scoreless draw in the final with Honduras. But more important was breaking down a psychological barrier and creating a landscape that would govern the region's Clasico going forward.
The U.S. had just played in its first World Cup in 40 years, winning a berth made possible by Mexico's suspension after using an overage player in Olympic qualifying, and was three months into former Mexico boss Bora Milutinovic's U.S. reign. The inscrutable Serb would over the next three years change how Americans saw and played the game, and the 1991 Gold Cup triumph was the first step.
Mexico was accused of overlooking the U.S., but the every-two-days schedule favored the Americans, who were fit and strong physically. The battle, before 41,103 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, was chippy and frenetic, but the Yanks found a groove after the break, went ahead right away on Doyle's tap-in and Vermes finished a Hugo Perez through ball in the 64th minute.