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Monday, March 9, 2009
Gold Cup to be played at 13 sites in U.S.

NEW YORK -- The CONCACAF Gold Cup will be played in 13 U.S. cities, with the semifinals at Chicago's Soldier Field on July 23 and the championship three days later at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

The number of venues is more than double the previous high of six. The tournament, the championship of soccer's North and Central American and Caribbean region, opens July 3 and each venue will hold one doubleheader, except for the final. The 1994 World Cup in the U.S. was played at nine venues.

The quarterfinals will be at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field on July 18 and the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium in Arlington, Texas, the following day. It is expected to be the first sports event at the Cowboys' stadium.

The U.S. is expected to send a relatively young roster for the tournament after using veterans in June at the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa. The U.S has won the tournament four times, including the last two editions in 2005 and 2007.

Twelve nations will be drawn into three first-round groups: Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama and the United States.

First-round matches will be played at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. (July 3); Seattle's Qwest Field (July 4); the Oakland Coliseum (July 5); Columbus Crew Stadium (July 7); Washington's Robert F. Kennedy Stadium (July 8); Houston's Reliant Stadium (July 9); Miami's Florida International Stadium (July 10); Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. (July 11); and University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. (July 12).

Four venues will use artificial turf: Arlington, Foxboro, Miami and Seattle. Grass will be installed over the artificial turf in East Rutherford, also the site of the 2005 final.

Cuba had qualified for the tournament but asked with Caribbean Football Union to withdraw and was replaced by Haiti. Two years ago, Cuban players Osvaldo Alonso and Lester More failed to show for a first-round game at Houston and defected.

CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer said Cuba's decision was not related to the defections.

"There are legitimate issues that the Cubans had," Blazer said. "They have an issue right now with the number of players they have and what they have to do to develop a fully competitive team."




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