Paul Clarke, Gleaner Writer
Host country Jamaica has been drawn to open their account in the fourth edition of the CONCACAF Under-17 Women's Football Championship with a tough assignment against Central American side El Salvador on October 30 at the Montego Bay Sports Complex.
The junior Reggae Girls will also go up against Mexico and Haiti in Group A, while defending champions the United States of America will play in Group B alongside Canada, Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago.
The groupings were made known at yesterday's draw at the Hilton Hotel at Rose Hall, St James, and was attended by CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb, Jamaica Football Federation boss Captain Horace Burrell and several other high-ranking officials from the confederation. Horace Reid, the CONCACAF director of competitions, made the draw.
Mexico, Canada, and the United States made the list as automatic qualifiers, with the junior Reggae Girls doing so by virtue of being the host nation, while Trinidad and Haiti, winners and runners-up of the Caribbean U-17 Championship, qualified from the Caribbean Football Union (CFU). El Salvador and Guatemala represent the Central America Football Union.
"This tournament, the Under-17 FIFA Women's Championship, is a very important tournament for our confederation," said Webb, "And I want to congratulate the host country Jamaica and the other seven countries to have qualified."
All the matches will be played at the Montego Bay Sports Complex where two matches will be hosted each day. On opening day, October 30, Mexico will clash with Haiti at 3:30 p.m. before hosts Jamaica take on the El Salvadorians in the feature at 6:00 p.m.
The finalists from this tournament will gain the two automatic qualification spots to the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup to be staged in Costa Rica next year. It will mark the second time that CONCACAF will have the honour of hosting a major age-group FIFA World Cup, after Trinidad and Tobago did so a couple years ago.
JFF boss Horace Burrell said that this championship will go a long way in helping to solidify Jamaica's growing reputation as a location for high-quality FIFA championships.
"This tournament will no doubt help to further highlight the city of Montego Bay and place the country in the minds of the decision makers in FIFA that we are capable of hosting big competitions," he told The Gleaner.
"We wish all the teams well, and I hope that the people of this beautiful city will come out and be entertained," he added.