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Canada U17 MNT prepares for AGS Cup in Spain

Jordan Hamilton was with the U17's for the 2011 CONCACAF Championships but come next spring he will be a key player for the team. (via <a href="">canadasoccer</a>)
Jordan Hamilton was with the U17's for the 2011 CONCACAF Championships but come next spring he will be a key player for the team. (via canadasoccer)

Come the end of the month Canada will be sending their under 17 side off to Spain to take place in the AGS Cup that will put them up against some very tough opposition. Canada is one of eight teams taking part in the tournament this year and will be in a group with reigning champions Mexico, Russia, and Morocco. The Canadians will almost certainly be looked at as long shots to do anything in this group but if they can build on their performance at the Torneo delle Nazioni back in April they might shock a few teams.

When they went to Italy back in April they claimed a 1-1 draw against Mexico in a warmup friendly before losing 1-0 to Israel, 2-0 to Italy and wrapping up the tournament with a 2-0 win over Slovenia. It was not quite the success that head coach Sean Fleming would have been hoping for but Canada proved that they were at least able to stick around with some of the stronger sides in UEFA as well as the top side in CONCACAF.

Taking part in the AGS Cup will be the next step in Canada's preparations for the upcoming U17 World Cup. Canada will need to continue to improve as they move towards the CONCACAF U17 championships in Panama next April. If they are succesful there it will mean a trip to the United Arab Emirates and a return to the U17 World Cup. Last time out Canada collected their first point in the event since 1987 thanks to a memorable strike by goal keeper Quillan Roberts against the English. They ended the tournament with a defeat and a pair of draws but that was not enough to reach the knockout round.

Now in Spain, Fleming will be focused on continuing the improvement. His sides have struggled to find the back of the net in recent tournaments so he will be hoping to find someone to step up and address that concern. Many will have their eyes on one of Toronto FC's top academy prospects to do just that for the team. In the spring Jordan Hamilton netted against Mexico in the draw and continues to impress having been a member of the U17 side for close to three years already. Hamilton will be just one of the TFC players involved but it is unlikely that any of the others will be as important to Canada's chances of success.

The AGS tournament will kick off on September 29th in L'Alfàs del Pi on Spain's Mediterranean coast and run until October 6th. With only one week to fit in all the matches it means that the teams will be looking at a very busy schedule. The group stage matches will be played on the 29th, 30th, and 1st with a playoff match to follow on the 3rd or 4th and then the placement matches on the 6th. That could be five matches in a single week for the teams which makes it crucial that the coaches ensure they rotate their rosters and keep players fresh.

The Canadian Soccer Association has yet to release the kick off times for any of Canada's matches or the order in which they will play their group opponents but thanks to US Soccer we know that Canada is in Group A with Mexico, Morocco, and Russia while Group B will include the United States, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and United Arab Emirates.

We can also piece together some of the roster thanks to the magic of twitter where some players have confirmed a handful of members of the squad. Toronto FC will be represented by the aforementioned Jordan Hamilton along with Eli Roubos, Kevon Black and Derrick Sequeira who are all members of the club's U17 academy side. It seems that they will be joined by Marco Bustos, Jordan Haynes, Marco Carducci, and Kianz Froese of the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program.

Canada will depart on the 26th giving them time to train as a group for a couple days and adjust to the time change before kicking off tournament play. Canada are not the favourites to win but if they can put in a good showing against a team like Mexico it will give them a major boost heading into the CONCACAF Championship.