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U.S. Under-20s, Under-17s Learn Qualifying Draws

CHICAGO (Tuesday, July 16, 2002) - CONCACAF announced the final qualifying groups for the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship and the 2003 FIFA Under-17 World Championship, putting a tough road in front of the U.S. as the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team attempts to qualify for their tenth straight world championship.  The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team will compete in their qualifiers on home ground, as U.S. Soccer will host one of the two final rounds of U-20 qualifying this November at a location that will be announced shortly.

The U.S. Under-17s are the only country in the world to qualify for every Under-17 World Championship, but John Ellinger and his team will face one of their toughest tasks to advance to their tenth world championship. The Under-17s will travel to Guatemala in March, where they will face the host, the winner from Central America Group A and the winner from the Caribbean playoff between the Group B and Group C champions. Included in the group of teams that could come from the Caribbean are Jamaica, who the U.S. faced in qualifying for the 2001 Under-17 World Championship.

“Anytime we travel to Central America to play, we know that we are going to have be prepared to play our best soccer,” said Ellinger.  “We know that we have to finish in first place to guarantee ourselves a spot in the World Championship, and we will train for the next seven months with the goal of coming out on top in March in Guatemala.”

Only the two final round group winners are guaranteed spots in the Under-17 World Championship, with the two final round group runner-ups playing for CONCACAF’s third spot in the Under-17 World Championship. The 2003 Under-17 World Championship will be held in Finland in August, 2003.  Helsinki, Tampere, Turku and Lathi will serve as the four host cities for the 32 matches that will take place between August 13-30, 2003.

The U.S. Under-20s are looking to qualify for their U.S. Soccer record fourth-consecutive World Youth Championship, and will be joined by Canada, the second place team from Central America and the winner from the Caribbean playoff between the Group B and Group C champions.  The tournament will take place from November 13-17.  The top two teams from each final round group will qualify for the World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates from March 25 – April 16, 2003.

"We are looking forward to this challenge," said U.S. Under-20 MNT head coach Thomas Rongen. "We have been working very hard across the past seven months to prepare our team for qualifying, and we know we will be ready when we take the field in November."

The Under-20s posted a 2-0-1 record in 2001 CONCACAF qualifying in Trinidad.  The Under-20s posted wins in their first two qualifying matches to clinch a spot in the World Youth Championship, before settling for a draw against Costa Rica.  In 2001, the U.S. Under-17s finished qualifying with a perfect 3-0-0 mark in St. Louis, Mo., outscoring their opponents 10-3. 

2003 CONCACAF World Championship Qualifying Draws

Under-20 Final Qualifying Tournament
Group A: October 16-20, 2002 (Panama):
Panama, Mexico, 1st Place Central America, Winner Caribbean A/D
Group B: November 13-17, 2002 (USA):
USA, Canada, 2nd Place Central America, Winner Caribbean B/C

Central America (Top Two Teams Advance to Final Qualifying)
Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua

Caribbean (Winner of A Plays Winner of D and Winner of B Plays Winner of C; Winner A/ D and Winner B/C advance to Final Qualifying)
Group A:  Suriname (host); Trinidad & Tobago; Barbados; Netherlands Antilles
Group B: Cayman Islands; Jamaica; Puerto Rico; Montserrat
Group C: Antigua & Barbuda (host); Bahamas; Haiti/Republica Dominicana; St. Kitts & Nevis
Group D: Saint Lucia (host); Cuba, Dominica, Grenada

Under-17 Final Qualifying Tournament
Group A: March 5-9, 2003 (Guatemala):
Guatemala, USA, Central America A, Winner Caribbean B/C
Group B: March 26-30, 2003 (Canada):
Canada, Mexico, Central America B, Winner Caribbean A/D

Central America (Winner of Each Group Advances to Final Qualifying)
Group A: Honduras, El Salvador, Belize
Group B: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panamá

Caribbean (Winner of A Plays Winner of D and Winner of B Plays Winner of C; Winner A/ D and Winner B/C advance to Final Qualifying)
Group A: Trinidad & Tobago, Bermuda, Guyana/Dominica, Saint Lucia/Us Virgin Islands
Group B: Jamaica, Grenada; Antigua & Barbuda/Montserrat; Anguilla/St. Kitts And Nevis
Group C: Haiti; Barbados/St. Vincent & Grenadines; Cayman Islands; Republica Dominicana/Puerto Rico
Group D: Cuba, Bahamas, Netherlands Antilles/Suriname, Aruba/British Virgin Islands