They say that paradise is a state of mind. When the ingredients
are all of the highest quality, it can also be a place. Puerto
Vallarta, Mexico qualifies for this distinction and the flamboyant
tourist city, situated on the Pacific Ocean's Bahia de
Banderas, is set to host a major international beach soccer event
for the first time in its history.
In a three-day, round-robin event beginning on 17 April, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico and USA will compete for CONCACAF's two berths at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Marseille 2008.
Mexico and USA were the finalists at the last year's continental event and the Aztecas went on to cause a sensation at Rio de Janeiro 2007, eliminating beach soccer heavyweights Spain and Uruguay to reach the final in their first-ever FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup participation.
"It was a wonderful experience for us as a team and a huge
step forward for Mexican beach soccer," said coach Ramon Raya.
"Now it's important to keep on working hard and play a
good tournament in Puerto Vallarta, to show the world that last
year's performance wasn't a coincidence."
USA have been present at every edition of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, although they have never managed to navigate their way beyond the first phase. The Americans will be keen to rewrite this statistic in Marseille.
This year's CONCACAF qualification tournament will be capped by an exhibition match on 20 April between Mexico and an All-Star selection, which will be comprised of the event's top players and some stars from Europe and South America.