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USL Championship, Academy players set for Concacaf Men’s U-17 Championship

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 02/10/23, 1:00PM EST


Charleston’s Barajas, San Diego’s Ferree get chance to shine in Guatemala in bid for World Cup berth

Charleston Battery winger Fidel Barajas is among the USL Championship and USL Academy players looking to shine at the Concacaf Men's U-17 Championship in Guatemala. | Photo courtesy FMF

On Saturday, the 2023 Concacaf Men’s U-17 Championship kicks off in Guatemala. The field of 20 teams will vie for four spots at this November’s FIFA Men’s U-17 World Cup in Peru.

Championship Spotlight: Two notable USL Championship players will be in action, with Charleston Battery winger Fidel Barajas selected by Mexico, and San Diego Loyal SC goalkeeper Duran Ferree selected by the United States.

A late-season arrival with the Battery last season, Barajas looks set to take on a prominent role for Mexico. He scored a great finish in one of the side’s tune-up games against LigaMX club Pachuca’s U-20s during training camp and will take the No. 11 jersey. The 16-year-old had two assists in three games for the Battery last season and will be looking to impress.

Ferree was added to the United States squad on Monday after an injury to presumed starter Diego Kochen ruled the FC Barcelona prospect out of the tournament. The first pro signing from SD Loyal’s Select Academy program last year, Ferree is likely to back up the Colorado Rapids’ Adam Beaudry in Guatemala, but with the quick turnaround between games – only one day separates the three group stage games – the 16-year-old could see action.

USL Academy Call-Ups: In addition to Barajas and Ferree, three players who competed at the USL Academy League Finals last November have also been selected. Queensboro FC midfielder Thomas O’Rourke, who helped his side reach the Academy League Final against Tampa Bay United, is in the Dominican Republic squad. Tampa Bay United midfielder Edgardo Vazquez and forward Joel Rosa, who both played in the Showcase Division, are in Puerto Rico’s squad.

  • What’s the Format? Mexico will take on Curaçao (Feb. 11), Guatemala (Feb. 13) and Panama (Feb. 15) in Group A. The United States will take on Barbados (Feb. 11), Trinidad and Tobago (Feb. 13) and Canada (Feb. 15) in Group B. The top three teams in each group advance to the Round of 16, and the four Semifinalists in the knockout stage book their places at the World Cup.
  • How to Watch: Fox Sports will carry English-language coverage of the tournament on its platforms, with the United States’ opening game available on Fox Sports 2. Univision Deportes will also cover the tournament in Spanish through its platforms.
  • Reigning Champs: Mexico has won the last four editions of the Men’s U-17 Championship. After crashing out early in the Men’s U-20s last year – missing the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympic Men’s Soccer tournament in the process – they’ll be looking to give El Tri fans something to shout about.
  • Big Picture: The FIFA U-17 World Cup can be an early tent-post for young talent. In 2015, current United States stalwarts Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic and Luca de la Torre were in the squad, and two years later it was the turn of Tim Weah, Josh Sargent and Sergiño Dest.

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