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U.S. Under-17s Training Camp Notes from Guatemala

U.S. Under-17 MNT
CONCACAF Qualifying Notes
March 3, 2003

PLANES, NO TRAINS, BUT PLENTY OF AUTOMOBILES:  Sunday was anything but a day of rest for the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team, as the team awoke for an early breakfast and then an uneventful bus ride to Miami International Airport.  It took the team more than 90 minutes to clear security at the airport in what could best be described as an unorganized maze of lines and security checkpoints.  The team boarded the packed flight to Central America, and arrived on time in Guatemala City, at just before 1 pm local time (2 p.m. ET).  The players and staff went through customs and then loaded up their bus with nags and headed to their hotel, where lunch waited.  What had already seemed like an entire day was just beginning.  By the end of the day the team had been on four separate bus rides in addition to a three-hour plane ride.

FIRST TASTE OF TRAINING FIELD:  Following lunch, the team boarded their bus – again – for a brief 10-minute ride to their training ground.  Among the sights the U.S. passed: a Chili’s Restaurant and a variety of soccer fields.  The fields varied from a basketball court turned four-on-four futbol field, a dirt-and-gravel filled field and another that actually had grass.  Upon arriving at their training site, the U.S. team went through a 75-minute training session to stretch their legs and get them working towards Wednesday’s opener.  When the team arrived at the training complex there were no nets on the goals, no portable goals and no lines on the field.  The U.S. team went through a productive training session, however, that included an extended warm-up, a technical session of ballwork and then broke up and played a half-field scrimmage to close out the day.  The biggest surprise came 30 minutes into practice when members of the staff found that every item on the field had become infested with ants – shoes, bags, bottles - the works were crawling with critters.

GUATEMALA:  A quick primer on our hosts
Unit of money: Quetzal
Language:  The official language is Spanish, although 23 indigenous languages are also spoke throughout Guatemala.  As the U.S. learned today, many locals are very proficient in English.
History:  Guatemala City was established at the end of the 17th century
Location:  Guatemala is Mexico’s southern neighbor, but also shares a border with Belize, Honduras and El Salvador.  Guatemala City is located in the middle of the southern half of the country, about 60 km from the Pacific Ocean.

U.S. OPENS AGAINST JAMAICA ON WEDNESDAY: The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team will begin play in the CONCACAF Group A Qualifying Tournament on Wednesday (March 12) against Jamaica in Guatemala City, Guatemala.  The U.S. is the only nation to qualify for all nine previous Under-17 world championships.  Following the Jamaica match, the team will face El Salvador on Friday (March 7) and will wrap up the qualifying tournament against the host Guatemalans on Sunday (March 9).  The top team from the four-team qualifying group will advance to the 2003 FIFA Under-17 World Championship in Finland, and the second-place team will advance to a home-and-home play-off against the second-place team from CONCACAF Group B, which includes Mexico, Canada, Cuba and Costa Rica. The Group B tournament will be held in Canada from March 26-30.

2003 CONCACAF U-17 Qualifying – Guatemala
Date  /  Opponent  /  Kickoff ET
March 5  /  Jamaica  /  7 p.m.
March 7  /  El Salvador  /  7 p.m.
March 9  /  Guatemala  /  2 p.m.

MANIC MONDAY:  The U.S. players kick off the biggest week of their soccer life tomorrow with a 10 a.m. practice that will be followed by a brief workout in the pool.  The players will be given time off in the afternoon and then will regroup in the early evening to take care of the accreditation process.

SHARING THE FIELD, SHARING THE HOTEL:  The U.S. was the first team to arrive at their uatemala hotel, only to learn that they would be sharing the hotel with their three other opponents.  The Guatemalan delegation checked into the hotel as the U.S. returned from their afternoon training session, and Jamaica and El Salvador are expected in the next two days.  While the teams will share a hotel, they will not share rooms on the same floor.  Each squad occupies two stories at the hotel, with the U.S. delegation living in two floors high up in the hotel that give them a flattering view of Guatemala City.

MILE HIGH:  The U.S. arrived into Guatemala three days prior to their opening qualifier, in large part to adjust to the altitude. Where the U.S. is located in Guatemala City, the elevation hovers near 5000 feet. Although no players felt ill effects today, the next two days of training will be the true test of their fitness and the air.

TELEVISION TIME:  The U.S. players were most thrilled to find that the their televisions receive more than 60 channels in their rooms, including versions of ESPN, USA, WB, Cartoon Network HBO, TNT, Fox Sports, RAI, MTV and more.  In fact, one of the first shows seen on TV upon the team’s arrival at their hotel?  Star Trek.  More than a quarter of the available stations is in English or subtitled.