CONCACAF WU-17: A Preview Wrap-Up

On Wednesday, May 2nd, the 2012 CONCACAF Under-17 Women’s Championship kicks off in Guatemala City, Guatemala, with eight teams hoping to claim one of three spots for the 2012 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup (U-17 WWC)  in Azerbaijan. The three teams to claim those spots will likely be the United States, Canada, and Mexico. However, one of the other five teams in the tournament could play the role of spoiler.

[Note: All matches will be streamed online via CONCACAF TV]

A new United States team, under the direction of Albertin Montoya, will attempt to do what their immediate predecessors could not do — qualify for the Under-17 Women’s World Cup. Last time, Canada kept the USA scoreless in their semifinal meet-up and won on penalties, which denied the USA one of two spots from CONCACAF for the 2010 U-17 WWC, which was hosted by Trinidad & Tobago. This time, a European nation is the host and CONCACAF now has three tickets to the U-17 WWC, which makes the odds of qualification, much, much better.

The U-17 USWNT comes into the tournament as the most prepared team. Just this year alone, the team has played six international matches, with only two of those being against a team of their own age cohorts: Germany’s U-17 WNT, which the USA defeated 2:0 and 1:0. The team defeated the U-19 WNTs of France and the Netherlands by 2:0 margins, while drawing 1:1 with England’s U-19 WNT and drawing 0:0 with China’s U-20 WNT. The team has also scrimmaged three times versus collegiate teams, winning all three times. The U-17 USWNT has allowed only one goal this year (versus England’s U-19 WNT).

In the past two U-17 championship, the U-17 USWNT has scored early and often in the group stage. In 2008, the team out-scored opponents 24 to 1, while in 2010 the margin was 32 to zero. In the opening 15 minutes of all six past group matches, the USWNT has scored 14 goals in total, with the first goal being scored in the fourth minute or earlier in all but one match (11th minute, versus Costa Rica, in 2010).

[For more on the U-17 USWNT, check out the Group B Preview, and the complete roster, with player profiles which includes video interviews and video highlights.]

This high-scoring trend will likely continue this year, at least in the USA’s first two matches. The U-17 USWNT’s opening opponent in Group B is the Bahamas, who are debutantes in this tournament, and the last team to qualify from the Caribbean. After that, the USA play Trinidad & Tobago, who are helmed by veteran coach Even Pellerud, who previously coached Norway to victory at the 1995 Women’s World Cup and coach Canada for several years. The USA’s final opponent are its southern neighbor, Mexico, who feature eleven US-based players (Mexico’s roster).

In Group A, Canada should come out on top, but the second place is up for grabs between Guatemala, Jamaica and Panama. Given the lack of information about these other teams, it is hard to pick a favorite, although the sentimental choice would have to be the hosts, Guatemala. Canada has two US-based players on its roster, who have both already verbally committed to US colleges, and is the second-most prepared team in the tournament. Since December, they have played three international teams, defeating Mexico’s U-17 WNT twice, drawing Germany’s U-17 WNT 0:0 in a 60 minute scrimmage, and defeat Trinidad & Tobago’s U-17 WNT 3:0 twice.

Upset Possibilities: It is unlikely that any of the North American teams will lose or even draw with one of the non-North American in the group stage. But, if I had to pick one match where the probability of an upset was highest, then I would go with Mexico versus Trinidad & Tobago on Group B’s first matchday. Mexico’s team has not played full matches with a consistent group of starters, so there could be some chemistry and fitness issues. Couple that with perhaps some over-confidence, then an organized yet scrappy T&T team might be able to eke out at least a draw.

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ODDS ‘N’ ENDS

The Groups:
Group A: Guatemala, Canada, Panama, Jamaica
Group B: Mexico, United States, Trinidad & Tobago, Bahamas

What’s At Stake: Three tickets to the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Azerbaijan. The two semifinal winners and the winner of the third-place/repechage match will qualify.

The Stadium: All matches will be played at the Estadio Cementos Progreso (Wikipedia). The field surface is artificial turf, specifically Forbex synthetic grass, which was installed in 2010, and the field dimensions are 104 meters by 68 meters. The soccer pitch is surrounded by an athletic track. The capacity of the U-shaped stadium is about 16,000. Guatemala City is at a fairly modest altitude of around 4,900 feet, which should not be a significant factor fitness-wise for the players.

Weather: During the group stage, daily highs will be in the low 80s Fahrenheit. There is a chance of afternoon/p.m. thunderstorms for each day the rest of this week, according to AccuWeather.com. Other weather websites: Weather Underground, Weather.com.

Technical Notes: (1) The normal match duration is 90 minutes, with 30 minutes of extra time a possibility in the knock-out matches. {By comparison, UEFA’s U-17 Women’s matches are only 80 minutes.} (2) Only seven players are allowed on the bench, so two players will not be rostered for each match. (3) Head-to-head results are the first tie-breaker, so overall goal differential matters less, but it is still important. (full regulations, here)

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EARLIER POSTS:

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SELECTED SCHEDULE:

United States
Thursday, May 3rd: Bahamas, 4 p.m. EDT
Saturday, May 5th: Trinidad & Tobago, 4 p.m. EDT
Monday, May 7th: Mexico, 6:30 p.m. EDT

Canada
Wednesday, May 2nd: Panama, 4 p.m. EDT
Friday, May 4th: Jamaica, 4 p.m. EDT
Sunday, May 6th: Guatemala, 6:30 p.m. EDT

Mexico
Thursday, May 3rd: Trinidad & Tobago, 6:30 p.m. EDT
Saturday, May 5th: Bahamas, 6:30 p.m. EDT
Monday, May 7th: United States, 6:30 p.m. EDT

SEMIFINALS: Thursday, May 10th (subject to change*)
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up, 3:30 p.m. EDT
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up, 6:30 p.m. EDT
*If Guatemala finish second in Group A, then times will likely be switched.

THIRD-PLACE MATCH: Saturday, May 12th, 3:30 p.m. EDT
Semifinal losers — will play for the final U-17 Women’s World Cup spot.

CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: Saturday, May 12th, 6:30 p.m. EDT
Semifinal winners.

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ON THE WEB:
CONCACAF TV (online streaming of the matches, live only)
CONCACAF.com micro-site for the tournament (news, box scores, video highlights)
CONCACAF’s YouTube Channel (video highlights may also be posted here)

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