International men's soccer will return to Seattle once again this summer. The CONCACAF Gold Cup, the tournament for the North American soccer...

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International men’s soccer will return to Seattle once again this summer.



The CONCACAF Gold Cup, the tournament for the North American soccer championship, will hold first-round group play at Qwest Field. Four yet-to-be-determined international teams will make up Group B, and they will play four round-robin matches at the home of the Seahawks and Sounders on July 7 and 9.


The Gold Cup field will consist of 12 teams, in three groups of four — 10 teams from North America, the South African national team and a second invited team from outside the region. The North American teams will be the United States, Mexico and Canada, three qualifiers from the Caribbean and four from Central America.



The Digicel Cup will decide the three Caribbean countries that will be in the Gold Cup field. The Digicel Cup — featuring Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba and Jamaica — will be played Feb. 20-24 in Barbados. The UNCAF Nations Cup for Central American qualifying will be held Feb. 19-27 in Guatemala City, with four Gold Cup participants coming from a field of seven teams.


The four teams that will play in Seattle will be named after those qualifying tournaments are finished.



Six U.S. cities, up from three last year, will host Gold Cup games, and all venues and cities will be announced today by CONCACAF, which stands for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Football.


Last year, Mexico City, Miami and Foxborough, Mass., hosted Gold Cup matches. Mexico won the title and Brazil was runner-up. The Gold Cup has been held seven times since 1991.



Four teams from the Caribbean or Central America will be competing next month in both Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying. Potentially four teams that qualify for the Gold Cup will have had to play more matches than the U.S. or Mexico, who are also trying to qualify for the World Cup but have automatic bids to the Gold Cup.


This year, the first round of the Gold Cup runs from July 6-13. The top two teams from each group, plus the top two third-place finishers, will advance to the quarterfinals.



The past two summers, Seattle has hosted men’s exhibitions involving European club teams. Qwest Field also hosted a friendly between the U.S. and Venezuela in March 2003.


Several officials from First & Goal Inc., the organization that manages Qwest Field, met with CONCACAF representatives in New York over the past six months to get Seattle into the field of host cities. Tod Leiweke, CEO of the Seahawks and First & Goal, was among the Seattle contingent.



Safeco Field hosted the Women’s Gold Cup semifinals in November 2002. The U.S. team defeated Costa Rica to advance to the finals and qualify for the World Cup. Three days later, it defeated Canada in Pasadena, Calif., to win the Gold Cup.


José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com