Mexico won the 2023 U-17 CONCACAF championship after defeating their biggest rival, the United States, by a 3-1 score. Mexico took an early lead and never looked back, although it was a very even match at times, with both team trading dominance. With this, Mexico have now won their fifth straight CONCACAF U-17 title, the last one to not be won by Mexico being in 2011, in which they didn’t participate because of their automatic qualification as host of the World Cup, a World Cup that Mexico ended up winning for a 2nd time.
Both teams came out with their best 11. Mexico went on the attack and could have had a potential PK call after a cross looked to have been handled by a US defender, but no call was given. Minutes later, Brandon Lomeli got into the area and US goalkeeper Duran Ferree brought him down as he went for the ball, giving Mexico a PK. Stephen Carrillo stepped up to take it and with a strong right footed shot beat Ferree to give Mexico a 1-0 lead. Off a free kick into the area, Carrillo came close with a header that Ferree failed to control. With Mexico having the lead, they began to sit back and concede initiative to the US, who had possession, but failed to convert it into anything. Mexico lost the ball in the area and the ball fell to Cruz Medina, who got off a shot that forced Mexico’s goalkeeper Paolo Bedolla to make a good save, his first of the match. The ref blew the halftime whistle blew before Mexico could execute a corner kick.
To start the second 45, Mexico subbed out Gael Alvarez for Yerar Azcarate while the United States subbed out Sawyer George for Aiden Joshua. Mexico had a great chance wasted when after the ball got into the area, Fidel Barajas had a chance from close range but his right footed shot went well wide. A longball into the area fell to Jose Urias, whose left footed shot was saved by Ferree in a great chance. In the ensuing corner kick, a good cross was brilliantly headed by Luis Navarrette, whose header went over everybody and right past Ferree for a goal and the 2-0 lead. Mexico had started the half better and made it count. Rudisill later got a shot from outside the area that would go just wide as the US were now controlling possession as they searched for their first goal. After a good move from outside the area, Keyrol Figueroa would get off a great shot that forced Bedolla to make save. In the ensuing corner, Pedro Soma, rose to get a header that would go past Bedolla for the goal as the United States cut the lead to 2-1. It was the best moment for the US in the game as Mexico stumbled for the first time since the group stages.
Mexico responded with Lomeli getting a shot from outside the area that was deflected wide. Oscar Verhoeven then got off a shot from close range that forced a great save from Bedolla. Later, Mexico had a chance when a left footed shot from Lomeli got deflected and forced a good save from Ferree. Off a corner, a header was deflected into the net for a goal by Moxica, but it was correctly ruled to be offside. Then, a pass into the area found Moxica again, who got past Ferree, but was then brought down by him in the area. A PK was given and Ferree got a second yellow, thus a red, although he sneakily attempted to still take part in the PK. Defender Stuart Hawkins had to step up as the US were out of subs. Isaac Martinez took the PK and easily placed it past Hawkins for the goal and the 3-1 dagger that settled the title. The US answered with a shot from Figueroa that went wide. Soon after, the whistle blew and Mexico were champions again.
After a number of setbacks in every category, Mexico have made a solid jump in the category that has given them more triumphs than any other. El Tri, who have won 2 U-17 World Cups, won their fifth straight CONCACAF title after qualifying to the 2023 U-17 World Cup, the only youth World Cup they will be part of in 2023, since they failed to qualify for the U-20 World Cup. Coach Raul Chabrand should be proud of his team’s performance which improved considerably as the tournament progressed. After a 9-0 smashing of Curazao, Mexico had two lackluster matches in the other group stage matches against Guatemala (2-0) and Panama (1-1). But in the Round of 16, Mexico turned it back on with a crushing win over Nicaragua (6-0) and never looked back with a dominant win over El Salvador (3-0) to officially qualify to the 2023 U-17 World Cup. Then came their best match of the tournament in crushing Panama in the Semifinals (5-0). The US were by far the best team they faced, but were still able to get an early lead and never trailed before winning the competition. Mexico are a deserving winner, but still have plenty of work to do as they hope for a repeat of their last World Cup in Peru (2005), coincidentally the site of the next World Cup. Anything close to that will be a huge boost to Mexican football, that is in dire need of any kind of success.