Photo: Jamaica Under-20 team that defeated Cuba 2-1 in a warm up game last Saturday.
All roads lead to the National Stadium (The Office) on Friday the 9th of January 2015 for the kick- off of the inaugural CONCACAF U-20 Championships. Twelve teams are divided into two groups (A, B) consisting of six teams each.
The group winners qualify automatically for the final of the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, while the runners-up and third place teams are reseeded amongst each other and will play-off for the last two CONCACAF slots at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Hosts Jamaica will begin their campaign against rivals Trinidad and Tobago in the feature match at 8:00 pm in the final game of a triple header. The first game of the day will see Aruba vs Panama at 3:00 pm followed by USA vs Guatemala at 5:00 pm.
Jamaica has slowly been building a solid core of young players with an eye towards the next series of international tournaments (U-20 World Cup, Copa America, 2015 Gold Cup, 2016 Olympics, and 2018 World Cup). With the Reggae Boyz being the host nation, they have a favourable draw (they will be playing in Group A with Aruba, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, United States, Guatemala, and Panama). Of all those teams only Panama and USA are notable performers and should provide Jamaica with a stern challenge. USA have gone to the finals more times than all the other teams in Zone A combined. It is expected that they will at least make it through the group stage and into the play-off round.
While many of the players being called up for Jamaica are either from high schools or currently playing in college, there will be a few with MLS experience. Given that this is a tournament for players under the age of 20, professional experience is understandably limited.
The player with the biggest spotlight on him for Jamaica will be Michael Seaton. The 18 year old has already made 11 appearances for the senior national team and scored 2 goals. He has also played two games for the U20 team and scored 2 goals. An academy product of D.C. United, he has slowly been groomed to be their eventual number 9 and is likely to receive considerable minutes in the up coming MLS season.
Other players to watch are Ryan Miller who now plies his trade for Red Stripe Premiere League outfit Cavalier FC. He has won many titles during his tenure at St. George's College. He too is among the goalscorers so far and looks quite promising going forward. The skillful, hardworking and witty Junior Flemmings who is dubbed as one of the greatest players ever to have donned the blue and white of Jamaica College is also expected to carry the burden.He has won all major trophies including the just added Lime Super Cup over 5 seasons at JC. He, however, hopes to be a permanent fixture in his local club Tivoli Garden. Rennico Clarke of Harbour View FC and Roberto Johnson of Portmore United sit at the heart of defence.
The Derek King- led 'Soca Warriors' are coming off a 3-0 win over Haiti in the final of the Caribbean Under-20 Championship earlier this year. So, Jamaica has to bring their A game come Friday if they want to walk away victors.
Coach King has beefed up his squad linking up with the selection of the United States-based players, Leland Archer (College of Charleston), midfielders Duane Muckette (University of South Florida) and Brendon Creed (Temple University) and forward Ricardo John (Virginia Tech University).
Coach King added, “These players such as Muckette, Creed and John will definitely add some quality to what we already have with the likes of Corbin, Levi Garcia and the other boys who did exceptionally well for us in the Caribbean Championship."
Fans can expect fireworks from day one in what promises to be an exciting tournament.