Canada drawn for CONCACAF finals


CSA & Whitecaps FC

Canada face a challenging road to reach this year's FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cup finals after CONCACAF held draws for their respective qualifying tournaments on Thursday.

The Canadian U-20 national team were drawn in Group B of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, which takes place from March 6 to 15. Tony Fonseca's side will face tournament hosts Trinidad & Tobago, Costa Rica, and Mexico in the group, with Canada needing to finish in the top two in order to book their place at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt later this year. Canada have participated in half of the 16 U-20 World Cup tournaments that have taken place since 1977, including each of the last four finals.

The Canadian U-17 national team, meanwhile, are looking to qualify for their first FIFA U-17 World Cup since the 1995 event in Ecuador. Sean Fleming's side were drawn in Group A of the CONCACAF U-17 Championship, which takes place from April 21 to May 2 in Tijuana, Mexico. They will face Cuba, Honduras, and the United States in the group, with Canada also needing to finish in the top two in order to reach the finals in Nigeria later this year. Canada appeared in three U-17 World Cup tournaments prior to Ecuador 1995. They were hosts in 1987 and participants at Scotland 1989 and Japan 1993.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency players look set to participate in both CONCACAF tournaments this spring. Five members of the program were involved in the U-20 team's preparation camps in Switzerland and Florida late last year. Centre back Adam Straith, who is currently on loan to German club FC Energie Cottbus U-19 Junior Bundesliga team, was involved in both camps. Fonseca has also taken a closer look at midfielders Philippe Davies and Ethan Gage, striker Randy Edwini-Bonsu, and goalkeeper Julien Latendresse-Lévesque, with the former Whitecaps men's team head coach currently in the process of shaping his squad for the tournament in March.

Whitecaps striker Dever Orgill, meanwhile, is likely to be a part of the Jamaican side at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship after their qualification from the Caribbean zone this week. Jamaica were drawn in Group A, where they will face El Salvador, USA, and either one of Honduras or Saint Vincent & The Grenadines. Both those nations are set to meet in a two-leg qualifying playoff towards a spot in Trinidad & Tobago.

U-17 head coach Fleming has also cast his eye over two Residency players in midfielders Kevin Cobby and Russell Teibert, as well as striker Coulton Jackson, who is a member of the Whitecaps Delta Prospects Academy. All three took part in the U-17 squad's preparation camp in Mexico late last year.

Should Canada qualify, the Whitecaps may be represented in Africa in the autumn. The FIFA U-20 World Cup takes place in Egypt from September 23 to October 16, while the FIFA U-17 World Cup is set for Nigeria from October 24 to November 15.

The Whitecaps wish both Canadian youth squads the very best of luck in their quest to reach their respective World Cup tournaments this year.