Jamaica’s young Reggae Boyz will have powerhouse teams United States and Costa Rica, along with Caribbean neighbours Cuba to contend with in the group stages of this summer’s Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championships in Mexico.

Those teams will contest Group A of the tournament scheduled for July 19 to August 4. Honduras, Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Canada will contest Group B, while host Mexico, Panama, Guatemala and Haiti will lock horns in Group C.

The groups were revealed during a live draw on Thursday.

Jamaica's young Reggae Boyz, who topped Group F on their way to the Championships, will now be guided by Jerome Waite, who is looking forward to the challenge of possibly qualifying the country to its first Under-20 Men's World Cup since the Argentina feat in 2001.

To achieve the feat, Waite, who took the reins from John Wall after the Caribbean qualifiers, will have to first secure a top two spot from the Group, as only the top two finishers from each group, along with the two best-third-place teams, will advance to the quarterfinals.

From there, the four semi-finalists will secure qualification as Concacaf’s representatives at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup next year.

Waite, who is no stranger to high pressure situations, was at the helm when the young Reggae Boyz went into the 2018 tournament without much preparation or expectation, but surprised the entire nation when they finished level on 13 points from five games with Concacaf kingpins, Mexico, at the top of the group.

However, Mexico qualified for the second round by virtue of a better goal difference than the Jamaicans, as only the group winner advanced.

Since then, Jamaica's closest run to FIFA Under-20 World Cup qualification was when they made the quarterfinals of the 2022 tournament in Honduras.

"Qualification will not be easy, but it is something that can be accomplished," Waite said.

After missing out on their Copa America dream, Trinidad and Tobago’s Shannon Gomez is hoping they will have better fortunes in bringing their 2026 FIFA World Cup vision to fruition. However, he quickly pointed out that it will require players maintaining their work rate and never-say-die attitude to make it possible.

Gomez’s views came as he reflected on the tremendous work rate and commitment the Soca Warriors displayed throughout the 2023/24 Concacaf Nations League A campaign, which recently ended in a 0-2 play-in defeat to Canada in Frisco, Texas.

Though that loss denied them a coveted spot in the prestigious CONMEBOL Copa America tournament, Gomez, a defender, took heart from the overall Nations League outing and views it as a solid platform on which they can build heading into the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers in June.

“We need to stay focused on what’s next for T&T football. (We have to) think about the things we (dreamt) of as kids, and being able to qualify for a World Cup will be a massive achievement. There are no words to describe what that will mean for T&T and what it will mean for us as well,” Gomez said in a video interview with Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) media.

“Nobody goes out onto the field thinking that they are not going to win the game. We went to win the game and we had the opportunity to win the game. But overall, it’s about reflecting and taking the positives out of the game to push forward and continue producing great results for T&T,” he added as he reflected on the Canada defeat.

The Angus Eve-coached Soca Warriors are drawn in Group B for the second round of World Cup qualifiers, alongside Bahamas, Costa Rica, Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis. The top two teams in the group will advance to the final round where 12 teams will be split into three groups of four.

The teams will play six matches on a home-and-away basis, with the three group winners gaining automatic qualification for the 2026 World Cup to be co-hosted by Concacaf powerhouses Canada, Mexico and United States. The two best second-placed teams will then advance to an intercontinental playoff to fight for two World Cup spots.

Qualification would be the twin island republic’s second appearance at the global showpiece and Gomez is optimistic that the Soca Warriors will continue to improve both technically and tactically to accomplish the feat.

“For me personally, it’s about strengthening our strengths and working on our weaknesses to strengthen them as well,” the 27-year-old San Antonio FC player said.

“I think just focusing on that and keeping that as the focal point of the camp and from the top come down with TTFA and the continued support from the T&T fans. That will be the best thing moving forward and to be able to pick up some massive results coming up in the World Cup qualifiers,” he ended.

 

Despite a gritty display at home, Suriname's Robinhood failed to progress to the quarterfinals of the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup after they played out a 1-1 stalemate with Costa Rica's Herediano in their second-leg Round of 16 contest, at the Dr. Ir. Franklin Essed Stadion in Paramaribo on Wednesday.

Needing to overturn a two-goal deficit, Robinhood through a stoppage time goal from Don Tuur ended the two-leg tie with some positives to build on, though they lost 3-1 on aggregate. Adrian Garza got Herediano's goal in the 56th minute and confirmed their quarterfinal date with Liga MX side Pachuca.

 

Herediano largely controlled the first half and registered the only shots on target, although there were moments when Robinhood showed their teeth in transition, which served as a warning that they could be dangerous on the counterattack.

Robinhood came out more positive on the resumption and gradually applied pressure on the Herediano back line in their probe to reduce the deficit, but they unfortunately found themselves further behind.

The Costa Ricans broke the deadlock when Garza received a pass on the right wing and dismissed two defenders before rocketing a shot past Robinhood's custodian Jonathan Fonkel.

Robinhood should have pulled a goal back on the hour-mark when a giveaway led to back-to-back shots in a goalmouth melee, but the Herediano defence stood firm on both occasions to deny their opponents.

From there, Herediano were more threatening going forward and went close to a second in the 68th, but Andy Rojas steered his shot wide.

Robinhood’s Tuur got another good look at goal for the in the 78th off a looping cross, but he also hooked the shot wide.

However, the striker made amends and gave his team and home fans something to cheer about when he turned in a loose ball.

Amidst the turmoil that has overshadowed the ongoing Jamaica Women's Premier League (JWPL), there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the seven participating clubs to chase after, as one of those clubs will be the country's representative in the inaugural Concacaf Women's Champions Cup.

This Women's Champions Cup, the region’s first official women’s continental club championship, follows the successful conclusion of the inaugural Concacaf Women's Gold Cup, which was won by United States on Sunday. The preliminary round and group stage matches of the club tournament are scheduled for August, September, and October this year, with a final four centralized semifinals and final set for May 2025.

Hailed as another strategic move in women’s football, the Women's Champions Cup will be an annual competition that will pit the best clubs from North America, Central America and the Caribbean against each other, and will crown a regional women’s club champion. The tournament will also be the sole path through which Concacaf region clubs can qualify for the new FIFA Women’s Club World Cup, which FIFA has committed to launching in the near future.

Well aware of the gulf in class between other leagues around the region and Jamaica's Women's League, interim Reggae Girlz Head coach Xavier Gilbert welcomed the move by Concacaf, which he believes will offer some exposure for local players.

"It's important for local football, however, I don't think any of our local teams will be able to match up with the teams from Mexico or United States. Those clubs are professional clubs playing in a fully professional leagues, while ours is nowhere close to their standard," Gilbert told SportsMax.TV.

"But it is good, it is more football and more exposure for our local players. At the same time, I think it sends a signal of how important it is for us to look at what we are doing in terms of resources and surfaces for our local teams. So, it is good move by Concacaf, and I think it's for us now here in Jamaica to look at what we are doing and try to improve the quality of our league," he added.