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USA to face ambitious opponents
by Paul Kennedy, March 4th, 2009 7AM



[CONCACAF UNDER-20 CHAMPIONSHIP] The USA begins play at the the 2009 CONCACAF Men's Under-20 Championship Friday when it faces Jamaica Friday at Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet, Tobago. The Americans have qualified for the last six U-20 world championships, but they will face three ambitious national youth teams in Jamaica, Honduras and El Salvador.

Jamaica is coming off a final training camp in Florida, where it beat Canada's U-20s, 1-0, and tied a Caribbean-American Soccer Association all-star team, 0-0. Following the Florida camp, the Young Boyz added Reneil Sappleton of English club Leicester City and Amani Walker of UC Irvine.

Walker, who attended high school in San Diego and played for the San Diego Surf, was one of several U.S. residents Jamaica looked at during the Florida camp.

The nucleus of Jamaica's squad comes from the Sporting Central Academy.

Honduras qualified on Monday with a 3-1 win over St. Vincent & Grenadines in a playoff.

The Catrachos are led by captain Reynieri Mayorquin, who plays for Concacaf Champions League quarterfinalist Marathon. Other key players on Coach Emilio Umanzor's squad are Mario Martinez of Real Espana, Roger Rojas and Erick Andino of Olimpia, Julio Ocampo of Real Juventud and Esdras Padilla of Motagua.

El Salvador has been training in Trinidad & Tobago, where it beat (1-0) and tied (1-1) T&T's U-20s in a pair of friendlies. Its top player is midfielder Jaime Alas, who plays in Argentine club River Plate's youth system.

The top two teams in the four-team group advance to the semifinals and qualify for the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt.

Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago are the four teams in Group B.

Many Concacaf teams are looking at the U.S. youth and college ranks for players, and host T&T brought in a pair of Floridians Bradley Welch (Rollins College) and Jesse Fullerton (FIU), who both attended Cypress Bay High School.

March 6 Jamaica
March 8 Honduras
March 10 El Salvador


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