Canadian men’s team look to end U-20 World Cup drought

Shaan Hundal, left, and Kadin Chung were both named to the roster. (Photo via @USL)

Ten years.

That’s how long it’s been since the Canadian men’s team last played at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Canada will try to end that streak with a strong showing at this month’s CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Costa Rica, a tournament that doubles as the qualifiers for the U-20 World Cup.

Here’s what you need to know about this year’s CONCACAF Championship.

How does the tournament work?

The 12-team CONCACAF event, scheduled for Feb. 17–March 15 in the capital city of San Jose, will send four teams to the 24-nation FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea in May.

Canada has been drawn into Group A with defending CONCACAF champion Mexico, Honduras, and Antigua and Barbuda.

Group B includes the United States, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Haiti. Group C consists of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Bermuda, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The top nations in each group move on to the second round, which will consist of two round-robin groups. The winners of each second-round group advance to the CONCACAF final, and qualify for the World Cup. The second-place teams in each group also qualify for the World Cup.

What’s Canada’s schedule?

Canada begins play on Feb. 17 against Honduras, and then takes on Mexico (Feb. 20), and Antigua and Barbuda (Feb. 23).

Canada vs. Honduras is the opening match of the entire CONCACAF tournament. These two sides faced off against each other in a pair of recent friendlies—Canada won 2-1 on Nov. 12, and they battled to a 0-0 draw two days later.

"We know Honduras will be a tough opposition as they are strong and direct in their play," Canadian coach Rob Gale said in a news release.

"We need to match them and be creative at the other end. We have to make sure we are physically ready, take our chances, and execute our game plan."

Who’s playing for Canada?

Gale announced his 20-player roster last week.

“There is good experience in the group along with our Canadian resilience and character, but we also feel that we are 20 players strong and that anyone can contribute when called upon," Gale said.

Every member of the Canadian team has international experience playing away in Central America.

Here’s the roster:

Goalkeepers: Dayne St. Clair (University of Maryland), and Thomas Hasal (Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-18 Residency).
Defenders: Zachary Brault-Guillard (Olympique Lyonnais/France), Gabriel Boakye (Energie Cottbus U-19/Germany), Kosovar Sadiki (Stoke City U-23/England), Thomas Meilleur-Giguere (Montreal Impact), Kamal Miller (Syracuse University) and Kadin Chung (Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2).
Midfielders: Liam Fraser (Toronto FC 2), Diego Gutierrez (CD Palestino/Chile), Tristan Borges (SC Heerenveen/Netherlands), Kris Twardek (Millwall FC/England), Dante Campbell (Toronto FC 2), Aidan Daniels (Toronto FC 2) and Emmanuel Zambazis (Iraklis 1908 FC/Greece).
Forwards: Luca Uccello (Toronto FC 2), Dario Zanatta (Heart of Midlothian FC/Scotland), Shaan Hundal (Toronto FC 2) Aymar Sigue (Penn State University) and Liam Millar (Liverpool FC U-18/England).

How has Canada fared at the U-20 World Cup?

The inaugural U-20 World Cup was held in 1977 in Tunisia. Canada first qualified in 1979 (in Japan) and has participated in the tournament eight times.

Canada’s best showing was in 2003, when it made it to the quarterfinals--a Canadian side featuring Atiba Hutchinson lost to eventual runner-up Spain.

Canada has not played in the tournament since 2007 when it hosted the event—the Reds finished dead last, losing all three games and failing to score a single goal.

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