There will be plenty of soccer to watch this weekend for Toronto FC and Canada fans between TFC hosting FC Dallas, the Women's National team taking on England, and the U17 team taking part in the CONCACAF Championships it might prove to be soccer overload if such a thing even exists.
After training in Florida this week, the 20 players that made the final roster for the CONCACAF U17 championships have headed down to Panama to prepare for their opening match. Sean Fleming's final roster includes all five of the Toronto FC academy players that he initially called. Jordan Hamilton, Kevon Black, Elias Roubos, Derick Sequeira, and Ian Fernandes will all be given the chance to represent Canada over the coming weeks.
The vast majority of Fleming's roster is made up of players who are currently training at one of Canada's four professional clubs with the five Toronto FC players being joined by five from the Vancouver Whitecaps residency, one player from the Montreal Impact academy, and two from FC Edmonton's system. That means that 13 of the 20 players called are being trained at the professional clubs which should hopefully be providing them with the highest standard of coaching available.
The team will get right down to work after arriving in Panama with their first game coming up on Saturday (6:30 Eastern) against Trinidad and Tobago. Just like at the recent Under 20 event each group has only three teams and the top two sides advance to the quarterfinal round. With such a compact format it will be key that the U17 squad get off to a better start than their U20 counterparts did to ensure the easiest road possible to claiming a World Cup berth.
The T&T squad that Canada will face had to qualify for the event over the course of 2012 and did so by moving on from group 4 of the Caribbean zone. Drawn with Suriname, Guyana, and British Virgin Islands they managed to collect a spotless 9 points which included a 23-0! thumping of a British Virgin Islands team that ended up with a -54 goal difference in just three matches.
Canada's second match of the group is against Costa Rica which will follow on April 10th again kicking off at 6:30 eastern. Canada played Costa Rica twice this winter with both matches ending in a draw so it should be a very competitive match between two evenly matches squads.
Costa Rica reached the event by finishing in second place in the Central American Zone qualifiers last December in Guatemala. Two wins and a draw were enough to punch their ticket to the championships despite losing to Honduras who finished on top of the region.
Canada has a relatively easy road to earn a World Cup place in that Mexico, the United States, and Honduras are all on the other side of the bracket and could not meet Canada until the finals should they make it that far in the competition. Canada cannot afford to look past either Trinidad and Tobago or Costa Rica but at least if they fail to make the World Cup it will not be a result of getting a terrible draw.
Canada's all important quarterfinal, assuming they make it out of the group, would be against one of the top two teams from Group A which is made up of the hosts Panama, Jamaica, and Barbados which are all teams that Canada should be able to beat but avoiding the hosts would probably be a good idea if possible.
The task is simple for Canada heading into the event but if the young players want to achieve their goal of reaching this fall's World Cup in the United Arab Emirates they will need to get off to a quick start and avoid any stumbles along the way. Canadian fans saw with the U20 side just how costly a single bad game can be in this tournament format as it makes the road that much harder.
Canada will be looking to get back to the World Cup after reaching the event in 2011 following a second place finish in the 2011 CONCACAF Championships. Canada ended up earning a pair of draws in the 2011 World Cup in an event that most fans will remember for goalkeeper Quillan Roberts scoring a late equalizer against England for Canada's first point.
The 2011 event was the first time in 16 years that Canada had managed to reach the U17 World Cup and was the first time that Canada managed to come away from the event with even a single point. The team will be looking to build on that success this month and find a way to make it to back-to-back World Cups.
1- GK- Marco Carducci (C) | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency
2 - D- Mathieu Laurent | CAN / Mississauga Falcons
3 - D- Elias Roubos | CAN / Toronto FC Academy
4 - D- Alex Comsia | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency
5 - D- Aron Mkungilwa | CAN / Académie Impact Montréal
6 - M- Derick Sequeira | CAN / Toronto FC Academy
7 - M- Marco Bustos | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency
8 – M- Jose Lopez | CAN / FC Edmonton Reserves
9 - F- Jordan Hamilton | CAN / Toronto FC Academy
10 - M/F- Hanson Boakai | CAN / FC Edmonton
11 - M- Jordan Haynes | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency
12 - D- Kevon Black | CAN / Toronto FC Academy
13 - D- Ian Fernandes | CAN / Toronto FC Academy
14 - M- Andrew Gordon | CAN / Woodbridge Strikers
15 - M- Matthew Chow | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency
16 - M- Marco-Leonel Dominguez | CAN / Braves d'Ahuntsic
17 - M- Mikaël Cantave | FRA / Orvault Sport Football
18 - GK- Daniel Milton | CAN / Ajax Thunder
19 - F- El Mehdi Ibn Brahim | CAN / Braves d'Ahuntsic
20 - M- Ali Musse | CAN / WSA Winnipeg