The Mexican National Football (soccer) Team has quite the history. They've won 12 international championships, they're among Latin America's most popular teams, and they're on the list of countries that have a winning record against the United States (34-19-15). The CONCACAF Gold Cup is their most successful event, and this weekend "El Tri" will begin their quest to add another trophy to their collection. Mexico is looking for a record eighth Gold Cup trophy, but they'll have to navigate a tough field to get there.
That field starts with Cuba, making their ninth Gold Cup appearance and first since 2015. Before Mexico can even think about possible matchups with Team USA, Costa Rica, and others, they must first handle business within Group A. This group opens up in California which is home to plenty of Mexican soccer fans, so this should feel like a home-field advantage for Seleccion Nacional de Mexico.
Mexico vs. Cuba
When: Saturday, June 15 at 9:30 p.m ET
Where: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.)
TV: FOX or FS1 and Univision
Three Things to Watch
1. Cuba is no stranger to the Gold Cup
The Lions of the Caribbean as they are called back home are making their ninth appearance in this event. While the Cubans don't exactly have the best record on this stage (3-19-2, 11 points), they have scored 18 goals in this tournament, and they've picked up wins against Canada, Belize, and Guatemala through the years. They've also reached the quarterfinals in each of their last two trips to the Gold Cup (2013, '15). Cuba is looking to capitalize on those previous campaigns.
2. Mexico dominates at the Gold Cup
They have an all-time record of 48-9-10 in this tournament. They've scored 155 goals, won seven total championships (most recent one in 2015), and are CONCACAF's most decorated team.
3. De facto home-field advantage for Mexico
The Rose Bowl is located in Pasadena, California, which is just outside of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles area, and Southern California as a whole, is home to one of the largest Mexican populations in the United States. This isn't the first time that Mexico has played at the Rose Bowl (drew more than 83,000 there during the Copa America Centenario in 2016), and they've sold out stadiums throughout the state of California for nearly the last decade. Expect to see plenty of Mexican flags in Pasadena.
While I expect Cuba to put forth a solid effort, the odds are highly stacked against them. Mexico's success in Gold Cup openers (11-2-1), having a large fan base on hand, and playing in Mexico's home away from home will be too much to overcome. "El Tri" cruises to victory in this game.
Prediction: Mexico 5, Cuba 0
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.