Following last month’s official draw in Miami, 35 nations have been assigned groups which will compete for the 2019 championships in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), the final hurdle before the October World Cup in Peru. The Caribbean will account for 26 teams.
All CONCACAF qualifying games will be played at the IMG Academy in Bradenton.
Eighteen Caribbean nations will play in a four-group preliminary qualifying round. The Cayman Islands, Grenada, United States Virgin Islands and St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be joined in Group A by Nicaragua. The remaining preliminary round groups will feature only teams from the Caribbean.
Group B includes Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic and Montserrat.
Group C has Aruba, The Bahamas, Bonaire, Guadeloupe and St. Martin. Anguilla, Martinique, Puerto Rico and St. Kitts and Nevis are in Group D.
The preliminary round of round-robin play kicks off with play in Group A and Group C Mar. 16-25. Group B and D will play April 1-9.
The winner of each group will advance, where they will be joined by 12 more teams which competed in another round of qualifiers. That round, May 1-6, features eight nations from the Caribbean – Barbados, Bermuda, Curaçao, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. Those teams have been scattered across four groups with four teams in each group. Group E includes Bermuda, Jamaica, Mexico and T&T. Barbados, Canada, Guatemala and the United States are in Group F. Group G features El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Guyana. Costa Rica, Curaçao, Panama and Suriname are in Group H.
The top three teams from this round will join the group winners from the preliminary round in a knockout round May 8-16. The four semi-finalists will advance to the World Cup.
Caribbean teams generally appeared satisfied with the draw.
“It’s not bad for us,” said Jamaica’s coach Hopeton Gilchrist, whose team will play Mexico, one of the tournament favorites, in its opening qualifier on May 1. “… When the time comes we will be ready.”
Six teams have already advanced to the globe’s most prestigious U-17 tournament, including host Peru, Australia, Japan, Korea Republic, Tajikistan and New Zealand. Qualifying tournaments throughout 2019 will round out the FIFA U-17 World Cup field.
For the full schedule of CONCACAF U-17 qualifiers, visit www.concacaf.com.