This past week, both the US and Canadian U-17 teams punched a ticket to the 2011 World Cup, to be held this June in Mexico.
The United States eventually won the CONCACAF U-17 tournament that doubled as the World Cup qualifying process. A handful of the players involved, both in Sunday night’s final and the entire tournament, currently play for MLS academies.
Of the 20 players that traveled to Jamaica for Canada, 10 are products of either Vancouver’s residency or Toronto FC’s Academy. Two players, Michael Petrasso and Keven Aleman, are members of the TFC academy and finished in a tie for second-top scorer of the tournament.
Aleman, in particular, stood out as a creative force for Canada, scoring a wonder goal in a 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago that officially sealed progression to the World Cup. After that, he put in two quieter shifts as Canada just missed out on the championship.
On the US side, academy players featured a less prominent role in the team's march to a first U-17 CONCACAF championship since 1992.
Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Fernando Piña and FC Dallas defender Kellyn Acosta started the first three games, but both earned red cards in the 3-2 quarterfinal win against El Salvador. That would cost them both as they sat the bench for the final after being suspended for the semifinal against Jamaica.
Crew Academy defender Andrew Sounders started four out of the five games, wearing the captain’s armband in each of those appearances and playing an important part in a defense that conceded three goals the whole tournament.
Playing a smaller role in midfielder was Colorado Rapids Academy creative attacker Dillon Serna. The 16-year-old started twice – the first and last games of the tournament – before getting subbed off in the final against Canada.
Jack McBean, the only full-time US professional on the roster after signing a Home Grown contract with the LA Galaxy before the tournament, played in all five games, coming on as a sub three times and earning two starts. He was credited with two assists in the 3-0 defeat of Canada in the final.
Preparations now continue for both sides, and each youth national side will likely tap MLS academies and bring similar rosters when the 2011 U-17 World Cup begins this summer.