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.
CUBA’S ROAD TO THE CLASSIFICATION STAGE
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)
WHAT’S IN A (NICK)NAME?
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.
CONCACAF U-17 CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
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).