Five Things to Know About the Cuba U-17 MNT

After sweeping the group stage and winning its opening classification stage match at the 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship, the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team is set to square off against Cuba on Friday with the goal of earning a berth to the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup this October in India. Before settling in to watch the game (6:30 p.m. ET on Univision Deportes and CONCACAF’s YouTube page), here are five things you should know about Cuba.

After finishing second in the Caribbean Zone’s qualification tournament for the CONCACAF U-17 Championship, Cuba was drawn into Group B with eventual group winner Costa Rica, Canada and Suriname. After drawing Suriname 1-1 in their opening game, Cuba defeated Canada 2-1. The win proved crucial, propelling Cuba to the classification stage as Group B runner up after dropping its final group game to Costa Rica 3-1.

The Cuba U-17 roster is made up of domestic-based players. FC La Habana of the Cuban first division, Campeonato Nacional de Fútbol de Cuba, contributed a team-high seven players.

Cuba U-17 Men’s National Team Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPRS (3): Danny Echevarría Díaz (Villa Clara/CUB), Antuan Obregon Medina (Mayabueque/CUB), Arturo Héctor Godoy (La Habana/CUB)

DEFENDERS (7): Miguel Ignacio Coll Tamayo (Holguín/CUB), Christopher Yoel Llorente Fernándezn (Cienfuegos/CUB), Pedro Paulo Piñeiro Sarduy (La Habana/CUB), Bruno Manuel Rendón Cardoso (Matanzas/CUB), Cristhian Turca Pijuan (La Habana/CUB), Karel Aldair Espino Contreras (Artemisa/CUB), Roy Luis López (Camaguey/CUB)

MIDFILDERS (6): Carlos Alberto Molina López (Matanzas/CUB), Carlos Elián Ibarra Molina (Santiago de Cuba/CUB), Josue Vega Alvares (La Habana/CUB), Omar Pérez Ramírez (Villa Clara/CUB), Ronaldo Rosette García (La Habana/CUB), Jhan Marcos Rodriguez Licea (Camaguey/CUB)

FORWARDS (4): Manuel Ignacio Cruz Ledesma (Camaguey/CUB), Brian Savigne Polanco (Santiago de Cuba/CUB), Ribaldo Roldan Moreno (La Habana/CUB), Yandry Romero Clark (La Habana/CUB)

Cuba is commonly known as “Los Leones del Caribe”, which means, “The Caribbean Lions.”

A former player for Cuban first division team FC Pinar del Río from 1976 to 1989, Rufino Sotolongo is in his second year as head coach of the Cuba U-17 men’s national team. As a player, Sotolongo twice won the league championship in 1987 and 1989. As coach of FC Pinar from 1995-1996, Sotolongo once again claimed the hardware from a league title.

Before he coached the Cuba U-17 Men’s National Team, Sotolongo led the Cuba and Dominican Republic women’s national teams from 2004-2010 and 2011-2015, respectively.

Since the inaugural CONCACAF U-17 Championship in 1983, Los Leones del Caribe have participated in 10 CONCACAF U-17 tournaments. The current edition marks Cuba’s fifth appearance in a row, dating back to 2009.

Of the 10 CONCACAF tournaments that they have qualified for and participated in, Cuba has won once (1988) and qualified for the FIFA U-17 World Cup (formerly FIFA World Championship) twice (1989, 1991).