Chicago to host CONCACAF Gold cup matches

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Chicago's Soldier Field will be the site of next year's semifinals and final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:38 IST
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New York:

Chicago's Soldier Field will be the site of next year's semifinals and final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, soccer's championship of North and Central America and Caribbean. Carson, California; East Rutherford, New Jersey; Foxborough, Massachusetts; Houston; and Miami also were selected Thursday as sites for the 12-nation biennial tournament that will be played from June 6-24. Quarterfinal doubleheaders will be played at Foxborough and Houston. The semifinal doubleheader in Chicago will be on June 20. These will be the first Gold Cup games in Chicago. CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer said Chicago had been ruled out in years the tournament was played in the winter. "Chicago is a wonderful market. It was never an opportune one because of the time of year," he said. The defending champion United States, Mexico and Canada automatically qualify. The tournament will be the first official games for new Mexico coach Hugo Sanchez and the successor of former US coach Bruce Arena. Five teams will qualify from Central America and four from the Caribbean. For the first time since 1993, no nations from outside the region were invited to participate. The winner of the tournament qualifies for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, to be played in South Africa. First-round play will open in Miami (three doubleheaders), Carson (two doubleheaders) and East Rutherford (two doubleheaders), with later first-round games in Foxborough and Houston. The top two teams in each of the three first-round groups advance along with the top two third-place teams. Grass will be installed at Giants Stadium, and organizers hope to install grass in Foxborough. In 2005, the semifinals drew 41,721 at Giants Stadium, where a crowd of 31,018 attended the final. After the Gold Cup, the United States heads to Venezuela for the Copa America, the championship of South America. The US team is an invited guest for that tournament, scheduled for June 26-July 15. (AP)