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American pro sports teams return to Cuba after embargo lifted – SportsUntapped.com
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Added March 10th, 2015 by Ian

American pro sports teams return to Cuba after embargo lifted
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The last time a professional American sports team played in Cuba was back in 1999, the next time one will play on the tiny Caribbean island will be in June of 2015. This is when the New York Cosmos soccer club will travel to the capital city of Havana to take on the Cuban national squad. The trip to Cuba will be the first by an American team since the U.S. government ended its embargo with the country in December and restored full diplomatic relations with it.

The match is scheduled for June 2 and will feature the full Cuban national squad as it prepares itself for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup event this July. The tournament is the biennial championship for the CONCACAF region of FIFA, which is the Caribbean along with North and Central America. The contest will be played during a break in New York’s regular schedule as the club plays in the country’s second-tier North American Soccer League.

Since diplomatic relations have been restored, many Cubans are hoping to see more professional sports contests on their island such as boxing and baseball. The Cosmos should prove to be a big draw simply because they’re the first team to visit in 16 years and the squad also features former Spanish World Cup players Marcos Senna and Raul along with a number of players who hail from South and Central America. While baseball is still regarded as the most popular sport in Cuba, soccer has gained in popularity over the past few years.

The Cuban soccer team meets the American national squad on a regular basis in international contests. The last meeting came back in the summer of 2013 when the U.S. beat them 4-1 in the Gold Cup tournament in Sandy, Utah. They’ve met seven times in the past with the Americans winning all seven contests since their first encounter back in 1998. The Americans also defeated them in a 2008 World Cup Qualifier. However, before the countries faced each other in 1998 they hadn’t met on a soccer pitch in a men’s contest since back in 1949.

Professional American sports clubs used to visit Cuba regularly several decades ago. The Brooklyn Dodgers Major League Baseball team visited late in the 1940s and held spring training there and the New York Yankees followed suit several years later. Professional boxing cards were also common fixtures with many American fighters heading over from nearby Miami. The last pro team to compete in Cuba was the Baltimore Orioles baseball franchise when they beat the island’s national side 3-2 in March of 1999 in Havana.

The embargo was placed on Cuba by the U.S. in the fall of 1960 and the last pro club to play before that was the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings. The Red Wings belonged to baseball’s International League at that time and it had a team based in Cuba called the Havana Sugar Kings. The Red Wings’ last game in Havana was played in June of 1960 and Havana was ordered by the International League to move to Jersey City shortly afterwards. The Boston Red Sox hoped to become the first American pro team to visit Cuba after diplomatic relations were restored by President Obama, but for some reason the Cubans preferred to have a soccer team come over.

 
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