• Mexico defeat USA on penalties to win third-straight CONCACAF U-17 Championship title
  • Sunday’s finalists join Costa Rica and Honduras in qualifying for FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017
  • USA qualify for a record 16th time, Mexico are two-time U-17 World Cup champions (2005, 2011)

Mexico needed penalty kicks to defeat arch-rivals USA and claim a third-straight CONCACAF U-17 Championship title in Panama on Sunday. The Mexicans needed an injury-time equaliser from Carlos Robles to dramatically cancel out Andrew Carleton’s second-half strike for the Americans and send the final at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez to a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw.

It was El Tri that held their nerve, as Akil Watts’s miss for USA allowed Roberto De La Rosa to convert from the penalty spot and give Mexico a seventh title with a 5-4 shoot-out victory.

Sunday’s final concluded a competition that saw both the Mexicans and Americans join central American duo Costa Rica and Honduras in claiming CONCACAF’s four qualification spots for the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017. It is the second straight time that these four nations have qualified for a U-17 World Cup after the quartet represented the region at Chile 2015.

Three-time champions
Two-time U-17 World Cup winners, Mexico earned their opportunity to compete for a third title in India this October after finishing top of their Classification Stage group.

In reaching that round, El Tri scored 14 goals, despite finishing behind first-round group winners USA. A 6-0 win over El Salvador and a 5-1 victory over Jamaica took the Mexicans to the next stage, where they registered results over hosts Panama (1-0) and Costa Rica (6-1) to secure a 13th qualification to a U-17 World Cup.

Mario Arteaga’s side not only claimed the title, but also the tournament’s Fair Play award, while striker Ian Torres was awarded the Golden Ball as the top player at Panama 2017.

USA impress
The Stars and Stripes’ journey to a 16th U-17 World Cup appearance - a record only equalled by Brazil - was impressive. John Hackworth’s side registered a 100 per cent record in their first-round group following victories over Jamaica, Mexico, and El Salvador. The pick of those results was a 4-3 win over the Mexicans on 26 April, with USA captain Josh Sargent scoring twice in the encounter.

The Americans then made easy work of the Classification Stage, as they defeated Honduras 3-0 on Wednesday and thumped Cuba 6-2 on Friday to secure their place at India 2017. Among the goals in the win over the Cubans was the son of Liberian football legend George Weah, Paris Saint-Germain forward Tim Weah.

Despite the disappointment of being seconds away from winning a fourth CONCACAF U-17 Championship title, USA’s efforts did not go unnoticed after goalkeeper Justin Garces was awarded the Golden Glove award as the competition’s top goalkeeper.

Central Americans progress
Costa Rica secured their spot at India 2017 after finishing runners-up to Mexico in their Classification Stage group. Los Ticos cruised through their first-round group stage with victories over Canada, Suriname, and Cuba.

Though they missed out on Sunday’s final after a heavy defeat to Mexico, Monday’s 2-1 victory over Panama was enough to secure a tenth U-17 World Cup appearance for the Costa Ricans.

Honduras, meanwhile, claimed a third-straight U-17 World Cup appearance after finishing runners-up behind USA in their Classification Stage group. Their campaign did not get off to the best of starts after a 4-2 defeat to Panama in the opening match of their first-round group stage. However, Los Catrachos recovered to advance to the next round after victories over Curacao (3-0) and Haiti (3-1).

Though a defeat to the Americans denied them the opportunity to play in Sunday’s final, Honduras ensured they would be playing in a U-17 World Cup for a fifth time with a convincing 7-1 victory over Cuba. Carlos Mejia and Patrick Palacios each scored a hat-trick in Monday’s win, with Mejia finishing Panama 2017 as the tournament’s top scorer with seven goals.

All four CONCACAF countries will be full of anticipation this summer when the draw for the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 takes place in Mumbai on 7 July.