The USA were named top dogs of the week-long competition in Punta Leona, Costa Rica even before playing their fourth and final match. Having beaten Jamaica (5-2), Canada (3-0) and Mexico (7-4) in their first three games, their final contest with the already-eliminated hosts was a foregone conclusion as their opening win over closest chasers Canada on 13 September had them shading their northern neighbours in the head-to-head category.
Their emphatic win over eventual fourth-place finishers Mexico on Saturday proved enough for the Americans to move through and guarantee themselves top spot in the competition - their first official CONCACAF Beach title. The consistently impressive Yuri Morales of the USA earned his fourth and fifth goals in the affair to finish second top scorer in the regional showpiece.
The Americans, in spite of their previous dominance, finished the tournament with a loss, going down in their final match on Sunday to Costa Rica (3-2). Even with the slip-up, they finished top of the five-team group to book a place at their second consecutive FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup , which will run from 2 to 12 November in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
After all was said and done, US coach Roberto Ceciliano was not entirely pleased with his side's performances over the course of the tournament. But he was predictably thrilled about the result that saw them crowned champions of North, Central America and the Caribbean.
"My team didn't play as well as I would have liked, but thank God we qualified," the boss - who led the USA to a credible display at last year's finals - remarked after watching them down a disappointing Mexico - who finished with three points from four matches - in their decisive third and penultimate match. In that game, Benyam Astorga scored the fastest goal in the tournament's history, and his second of the championship, just four seconds into the match.
"It means a lot to be taking part in a (Beach Soccer) World Cup, because after months of hard work and preparations this is great reward," the Brazilian-born US coach went on to add.
A fine Canuck run
Earlier in the day at Playa Jaco, the USA's northern neighbours Canada assured themselves of the other finals place up for grabs with a 6-4 win over hosts Costa Rica in their last game. Two goals from Kyriakos Selaidopoulos and one apiece from Ian Carlos Diaz (the team's top scorer with three in four games), Damir Deco Jesic, Sipho Sibiya and Kyle Yamada saw the Canucks assure themselves of a spot in Rio with nine points from their four matches.
Tied with the US on points before the Americans' final match, but four ahead of closest chasers Costa Rica, the Canadians booked their place at their first-ever Beach Soccer world finals thanks to previous wins over Mexico (6-4) and an overwhelmed Jamaica (7-3) who lost all of their games.
"The work that we have done was very beneficial and one of the important things that has helped us is that we enjoyed what we did and enjoyed competing in this tournament," said Canada's head coach Ross Onagro. "I can not imagine what it will be like to play in Rio de Janeiro, at the (Beach Soccer) World Cup I only promised my players that we will do a good job and look what we have accomplished."
The Beach Soccer World Cup in Rio represents the first time a Canadian senior national men's side has qualified for a global FIFA competition since their shock appearance at the FIFA World Cup finals in Mexico in 1986.
In the end, Mexico's Ricardo Villalobos finished top scorer with seven goals. Canada were awarded the Fair Play prize and their goalkeeper, Jim Larkin, was named top net minder. The tournament's most valuable player was veteran US captain Francis Farberoff.
The USA and Canada now join hosts Brazil, UEFA's five representatives Spain, Portugal, Poland, Italy and France, Uruguay and Argentina from South America, AFC's Bahrain, Japan and Iran and Oceania's hopeful Solomon Islands in the second FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup to take place on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro from 2-12 November 2006.
CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship standings: