Mexico begin their CONCACAF U-20 Championship with a big unknown as they open up against Nicaragua, in what is on paper the second toughest team in the group. El Tri will need to hit the ground running as only group winners qualify to the next round, where they will be playing for 1 of 4 tickets to the U-20 World Cup.
Mexico has arrived in Bradenport, Florida with the goal of not only getting a ticket to the U-20 World Cup but win the title. Though they are expected to at least qualify to the World Cup, they will need to avoid past demons of playing down to their rivals. A slip up here could prove costly, and they can’t afford any mistakes.
Indeed, Nicaragua is one of the benefited teams of the new CONCACAF U-20 Championship, which had no qualifiers for the tournament. This meant all CONCACAF teams that entered automatically qualified.
However, Nicaragua do have some recent CONCACAF history, with their senior team making two Gold Cups. In one of them (2009 Gold Cup), they held Mexico to only a 2-0 victory in what many thought would be a rout. That Mexican team would later win the competition and score more goals against Haiti and the United States than Nicaragua.
That said, Nicaragua do arrive as a serious underdog for this match. In youth teams, they have almost no history and will face a Mexico team that brought a squad with star players like Diego Lainez. Moreover, although they have historically played down to their opponents, this has been less evident with the youth teams than with the senior team.
This whole tournament can be considered a big unknown. A new process with more teams and with less time between games. It’s a tournament that will be harder in terms of spots but easier in terms of rivals. Mexico’s start of the tournament might set things in motion to how it will end, especially in terms of a battle with main rival Jamaica for that solitary spot in the next round. On the other hand, Nicaragua will see if they can start making history against one of the region’s historic powers.
Date: Friday, November 2
Time: 4:45pm Pacific, 6:45pm Central, 7:45pm Eastern
Venue: IMG Soccer Stadium, Bradenton, Florida
TV: Univision Deportes (US-Spanish), FOX Sports (Mexico)