TRINIDAD and Tobago's men's under-20 football team have been drawn alongside Canada and fellow Caribbean nations Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in group D for the 2024 Concacaf under-20 qualifiers which take place between February and March 2024.
In total, 27 Concacaf member nations will contest the qualifying tournament, with the six group winners advancing to the 12-team Concacaf under-20 championship to be played in the summer of 2024. Those six group winners will join Concacaf's highest-ranked men's under-20 teams: US, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
As of June 2023, T&T's under-20 team were ranked 13th among Concacaf teams – placing them in pot two ahead of Wednesday's draw at the Concacaf headquarters in Miami, Florida. Canada, ranked 12th best in Concacaf, were placed in pot one before the draw. The 25th-ranked SVG and the 29th-ranked Dominica were placed in pots two and three respectively.
T&T will be one of the countries to host matches during next year's qualifiers. The other Concacaf nations to serve as hosts during the qualifiers are Antigua and Barbuda, Guatemala, Nicaragua and St Kitts and Nevis.
In a brief chat with Newsday, T&T Football Association (TTFA) technical director Anton Corneal said he hopes T&T will be able to make home advantage count in the qualifiers.
"Canada will probably be the seeded team (in the group), " Corneal said. "We have had mixed results in the past with Canada in youth football. Being at home, hopefully, it's a group that we can possibly win. I'm not counting out Dominica or St Vincent because all of those programmes are growing."
At the last edition of the Concacaf under-20 showpiece event in 2022, T&T finished third in their group behind Mexico and Haiti. They then fell to a 4-1 loss to Costa Rica at the round of 16 stage.
Then coached by T&T men's team coach Angus Eve, the young Soca Warriors did have bright individual performances. Nathaniel James scored four goals in the tournament and netted a pair of goals versus Haiti and Suriname in group play. Team captain Molik Jesse Khan scored two goals in the tournament. There were also exciting displays from the midfield pair of Real Gill and Kaihim Thomas.
Three of the aforementioned players have since represented T&T at senior level. Both Gill and James are currently in Eve's T&T squad for their upcoming Concacaf Nations League A games against Guatemala (October 13) and Curacao (October 17). James, 19, scored his first senior international goal last month as he came off the bench to grant T&T a 1-0 win over Curacao in their opening match of the ongoing Nations League campaign.
The four semi-finalists at the 2024 Concacaf under-20 championship will qualify for the 2025 Fifa men's under-20 World Cup. The US are the defending Concacaf under-20 champions.
Corneal said an official announcement on the under-20 men's team technical staff will be made next week.
SOURCE: T&T Newsday