It has been 18 years since Canada’s Under-20 team lifted the regional Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Associations of Soccer (CONCACAF) title.
The national team will be seeking to reverse that trend at the 12-team regional championship in Jamaica from January 9-24.
Canada is in group “B” with defending champion and 12-time winner Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, Honduras and El Salvador, while the other group comprises the United States, Aruba, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago and host country, Jamaica.
Coach Rob Hale acknowledges that Canada, which also captured the 1986 regional crown, is in a tough group.
“It looks as if teams could all take points off each other in these challenging five games in nine days format,” he said. “We are pleased to be in Montego Bay and Canadian teams have enjoyed success here in recent years, so we hope to emulate that. It will be a great challenge but terrific experience for our young lads in their continued development with Canada.”
The top four teams will advance to next year’s Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand.
Canada has missed the last three World Cups after exiting in the first round in 2007.
In preparation for the regional tournament, Canada is in Europe for practice matches against England in Bournemouth last night and Russia and the United States in Spain on November 15 and 18, respectively.
“We have good competition for places,” said Gale. “By no means is anyone guaranteed to make the starting XI with the competition we have, so this camp is going to be an excellent test for the players with the opposition but also a chance for them to show that they can compete and take those spots going into January.”
Striker Jordan Hamilton, a Toronto FC academy product who was on loan this season to Portuguese second-division side Clube Desportivo Trofense, will spearhead the national team’s Under-20 challenge in Europe.