Under 20 Squad takes center-stage.

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s international programme will continue for the remainder of the year into 2015 with the Men’s Under 20 team now taking the focus as they prepare for the final round of 2015 FIFA Under 20 World Cup qualification.

Crowned Caribbean Champions after a facile 3-0 victory over Haiti in Port of Spain in September, the Derek King-coached team resumed training at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Thursday and will look ahead to a proposed training camp in Mexico later this month before returning home two days before Christmas Day. The camp is not yet finalised but once it is, will include two warm-up matches against Mexico’s national Under 20 Team and another against a Mexican club.

TTFA National Teams Operations Manager William Wallace said arrangements are being finalised to ensure the team has sufficient preparations ahead of the tournament which kicks off in Kingston, Jamaica on January 9. The TTFA is working alongside the Ministry of Sport and the Sportt Company in relation to the team’s campaign.

King said his team was looking to build off the momentum of the senior women’s team which saw a full Hasely Crawford Stadium witness Tuesday’s FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualifier with Ecuador. “We’ve resumed preparations with the majority of players back home including those who were on trial in Europe. We’ve got roughly a month before the tournament and we’ll be focusing now on getting the boys ready  for the final stage,” King  told TTFA Media.

“There is a positive vibe now for local football with the impact created by the Women’s Team and we are really looking to feed off that and keep that within our team and our efforts to get to the Under 20 World Cup. This is the future of our men’s football. I believe the Mexico training camp will be beneficial to us and we’ll be in good shape for the qualifiers next month”

Vice captain Neveal  Hackshaw is also optimistic at the moment. “We were all sad when the Women’s team lost the Ecuador game but it was a great to see the public support them and support football on a whole. I think it’s a good wake up call for us on the men’s side as well. We realise that the country wants to see positive things from the football and it’s up to us now to work hard and get the right results,” Hackshaw said.

“The tournament in Jamaica will not be easy because we are facing the big teams from the region but I don’t think we’ll be intimidated. We have a good squad and the players are very hungry for success,” he added.

T&T  will open the CONCACAF final round of qualification against hosts Jamaica in Kingston on January 9. The Junior “Soca Warriors” are in Group A along with  Jamaica, Aruba, Panama, the United States and Guatemala. Group B includes Haiti, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Honduras and El Salvador, in order of position drawn. The tournament will crown the Confederation champion at this age level, and qualify four teams to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015. 

The top team from each group after round-robin play advances to the World Cup, and the second and third place nations from each group advance to the final day knockout phase, with the chance to dispute one of a pair of play-in matches which will determine CONCACAF’s other two World Cup spots, as stated by CONCACAF.

The Trinidad and Tobago men’s under-17 team is also preparing for the CONCACAF final round of qualification for the 2015 FIFA U-17 Men’s World Cup in Chile. Head coach Shawn Cooper and manager Christopher Gouveia will head to San Pedro Sula on the weekend for the final round draw on Tuesday.