T&T will kick off its campaign in the Concacaf Under-17 Men's Championships Group E Qualification Tournament against Bermuda at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida from 4 pm today.
Defending champions Mexico and Jamaica will face off in the second Group E match two hours later.
Simultaneously, at the same venue, Barbados, Canada, Guatemala and USA will do battle in Group F; El Salvador, Guyana, Haiti and Honduras compete in Group G, and Costa Rica, Curacao, Panama and Suriname face off in Group H.
So far the quartet of Nicaragua (Group A), Dominican Republic (Group B), Guadeloupe (Group C), and Puerto Rico (Group D) have advanced from the qualifiers draw as group winners to the last-16 and will be joined by the 12 qualifiers from Florida in the knockout stage.
The top four teams at the end of the Concacaf competition will qualify for the 2019 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Brazil.
The team led by former World Cup players in Stern John as head coach and assistant Kenwyne Jones, have been preparing team for the past few weeks and will go into today's first-ever meeting between both countries brimming with confidence ahead of its remaining matches versus Jamaica on May 3rd and Mexico two days later, at the end of which the top three teams will advance to the knockout stage.
John and 17 of his players travelled to Florido, USA on Monday night and were met by three USA-based players in Jerrel Nixon, Ajani Fortune and Curtis De Leon and the T&T coach was expected to have a final session yesterday afternoon ahead of today's match.
Speaking on the eve of the match, John, T&T's all-time leading goalscorer, said he would be seeking three points from the onset.
“We are here to compete and we’ve spoken about this as a team. That means we have three points to get in this opening game to give ourselves some breathing space for the remaining matches in the group,” John said.
“We’ve prepared as best as we can and now it’s down to the boys to execute. It’s up to them now as we cannot play from the bench. What we will do is guide them as best as we can. I am confident in their ability. I think the key will be to settle early because there will be some nerves at the start and that’s expected because it’s a first time for a lot of the boys. Once we put our heads down and play to our ability then we should be pulling off a result to give us a good head start,” John added.
Forward Justin Araujo Wilson is eager to put in a shift that will hopefully get T&T off on a right start.
“The preparation was very organised and well done to coach Stern and coach Kenwyne for bringing the boys together and pushing us hard to prepare for this tournament. We have to come out and work hard and win games for ourselves, our families and the country. Doing well in this kind of tournaments can save our lives,” said Araujo-Wilson.
“It’s mandatory for us to get three points. We know what we can do but we have to have something to show for it. I just like wearing the Red, White and Black because growing up watching the Soca Warriors play was good and now it’s a dream come true to play for the national team, he added.
Today's match will be the 50th Concacaf Under-17 match for T&T, with its record standing at 12 wins, 13 draws, and 24 defeats, scoring 60 goals, with 103 against, for a winning percentage of 33.3.
Bermuda, meanwhile, will be playing only its third CONCACAF Under-17 match, and has a record of two defeats from as many outings, scoring once and conceding 13.
The 2019 Concacaf Under-17 Championship is the sixth edition of the Concacaf Under-17 Championship (19th edition if all eras included), the men’s under-17 international football tournament organized by Concacaf.
(T&T Under-17 team)
Goalkeepers: Isaiah Williams, Kahlil Oliver
Defenders: Nigel Carraby, Luke Savery, Jordon Britto, Cephas St Rose , Isa Sayeed
Midfielders: Zachary Welch, Jaiye Sheppard, Tyrese Pierre, Andrew De Gannes, Curtis De Leon, Gary Griffith III, Jeremy Lashley, Kielon Burnett-Acevaro, Kevan Kahoussi, Ajani Fortune.
Forwards: Justin Araujo-Wilson, Jean-Heim Mc Fee, Jerrell Nixon.
Jamaica vs T&T, 4pm
Bermuda vs Mexico, 6pm
T&T vs Mexico, 4pm
Bermuda vs Jamaica, 6pm