The United States and Canada were handed tricky, but achievable roads to the FIFA U-17 World Cup on Tuesday as CONCACAF held the draw for next month's U-17 Championship, the qualifying tournament for this fall's big show.
The US were drawn into Group C alongside Guatemala and Haiti, while Canada find themselves matched with Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago in Group B.
Preferential seeding was handed to host country Panama, who occupy Group A with Caribbean contenders Jamaica and Barbados, and Mexico, the defending U-17 World Cup champions. El Tri will meet Honduras and Cuba in Group D.
CONCACAF's U-17 qualifying tournament is structured in similar fashion to its just-completed U-20 Championship: The top two finishers from each group advance to the quarterfinals, where the four winners will book spots in the World Cup, to be held in the United Arab Emirates this fall.
Canada head coach Sean Fleming and his U-17s are seeking a second straight World Cup berth for their program after qualifying for the 2011 edition in Mexico, where they were knocked out in the group round. Last month, Fleming called in a roster featuring 13 players from MLS youth academies for a camp in Costa Rica and Florida.
The US, meanwhile, coached by former MLS standout Richie Williams, look like early favorites for top spot in Group C, but have little margin for error given that the group's survivors will meet the top finishers in Group D, where four-time CONCACAF U-17 champions Mexico will be heavy favorites. Williams' side, which is dominated by members of the Bradenton residency program, recently completed a training camp in Panama.
The CONCACAF U-17 Championship runs April 6-9 at Estadio Rommel Fernández in Panama City and Estadio Agustín “Muquita” Sánchez in La Chorrera. A full tournament schedule can be found on CONCACAF's website.