Canada's U17 team now knows how their road to the 2013 U17 World Cup will look, and it begins with a group stage against Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago. Just like in the U20 tournament the top two sides from each three team group advancing to the quarterfinals and the winners of that round advancing to the World Cup.
With Canada's U20 side coming up one game short of a World Cup spot with last month's defeat to the United States it will now be up to the U17 team under Sean Fleming to try and get Canada into at least one World Cup this cycle. The team will head down to Panama City for the event which runs from April 6th until the 19th looking for a similar performance to 2011 when Canada finished second behind the United States making it Canada's best ever finish in the event.
Canada's road to the World Cup will go through Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago in the group stage and should they finish in the top two spots they will get to play in that all important quarterfinal against one of the top two teams from group A. That group is made up of Panama, Barbados, and Jamaica as both the United States and Mexico ended up on the other side of the draw.
The road is about as good as Canada could have asked for as they can now reach the World Cup without having to worry about meeting up with either the US or Mexico along the way. They will still have to work for it though as Costa Rica, Panama, and Jamaica all have a history of recent success at this event.
Canada will go into the event quite familiar with at least one of their opponents as they recently met Costa Rica in a pair of friendlies during the squad's February camp. Both matches ended as 1-1 draws with Andrew Gordon scoring both of Canada's goals. Those friendlies should give Canada a clear idea of where they stand heading into this event and hopefully provide them with some areas to improve upon when they get together for final preparations.
When Sean Fleming does name his squad for the event it is a fairly safe bet that it will include at least a handful of players for Toronto FC's academy. For all of the recent camps the roster has had a strong Toronto FC flavor including six players on the roster last time around.
The squad that drew twice against Costa Rica included Jordan Hamilton, Luca Uccello, Derick Sequeira, Ian Fernandes, Kevon Black, and Elias Roubos who are all currently connected to Toronto FC's academy. They made up half of the Ontario contingent on the squad as the province led the way with 12 players on the roster.
For Fleming, counting on TFC products should continue to be a major part of the plan. Jordan Hamilton has already experienced this event as he was a part of the Canada squad that finished second in 2011 when he was just 14 years old. He was not included on the World Cup roster for that summer and there is no doubt that he would like the chance to represent Canada at that level this summer. His experience and talent should make him one of Canada's most important players at this event. Hopefully TFC fans will be able to tune into this event and watch the players that might one day play for the first team.
The Full Groups for the event are as follows:
Panama - Barbados - Jamaica
Canada - Costa Rica - Trinidad & Tobago
United States - Guatemala - Haiti
Mexico - Honduras - Cuba