[UNDER-17 WORLD CUP]For the first time ever, the Under-17 World Cup will take place without the USA. The 2013 edition kicks off Thursday in the United Arab Emirates, where 24 teams will compete at six venues.
2013 Under-17 World Cup:
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DEFENDING CHAMPION.Mexico won the Under-17 World Cup for the second time when it beat Uruguay, 2-0, in the final. It will seek to join Brazil and Nigeria as the only teams to win three under-17 titles, but Coach Raul Gutierrez, who returns as head coach, will have lead his team past Nigeria, Sweden and Iraq in a tough first round group.
CONCACAF REPRESENTATION.Canada, Panama and Honduras join Mexico in the UAE. Both Canada and Panama have U.S.-based players. Dallas native Eric Davies, who plays for FC Dallas in the U-15/16 Development Academy, represents Canada, while Panama's Chris Bared plays for Soccer Academy of the Americas in Miami. Honduras knocked the USA out of contention with a 3-1 win in the Concacaf Under-17 Championship quarterfinals.
FAVORITES.Besides Mexico, other teams that arrived with legitimate titles hopes include Argentina, the South American champion, and Brazil and Uruguay, which play in the opening games Thursday. Uruguay is led by Fenix's Franco Acosta, who led South American qualifying with eight goals. Brazil features Gabriel, the latest protege to come out of Santos, where he has played six league games this season. From Africa, Ivory Coast won the continental title with a shootout win over Nigeria, which is led by Success Isaac, who scored seven goals in the qualifying tournament. The European U-17 title also went to Russia in a shootout over Italy, led by Mario Pugliese and Elio Capradossi.