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  • Road to Paris beginning for North American men's footballers


    Paris 2024 will have a busy qualification schedule, which will take athletes to every inhabited continent in 32 sports. While some ranking events and pre-qualifiers have already started, the first event that directly qualifies athletes (or more specifically in this case, teams) to the Olympics is just around the corner.


    A dream that will end in the second weekend of August 2024 when the gold medals in Men's Football are given out will begin nearly nine thousand kilometres away in Honduras as the qualifier for the North/Central American and Caribbean region, the 2022 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship takes place from 18 June to 3 July: two spots will be earned from this event, which is the only way North American teams can qualify for the Games.


    Out of the forty-one members of CONCACAF (the North American Football continental federation), thirty-four entered the tournament. The top sixteen ranked teams did not have to qualify, instead entering the group stage of the final tournament. The remaining eighteen teams did enter a qualifying tournament in the Dominican Republic, with the four winners of groups of four of five entering the final tournament. For their troubles, they will skip the group stage and have a bye directly to the Round of 16. These teams are Curaçao, who won a group containing Grenada, the British Virgin Islands, Sint Maarten and Dominica; the Dominican Republic, who topped a group on home soil including St. Lucia, Belize, Anguilla, and Saint Martin; Puerto Rico, who topped a group with St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Bermuda, and Barbados; and finally Nicaragua, who overcame a group with the Cayman Islands, Guyana, and the US Virgin Islands.


    There will be four groups, with Groups E and G being based in the Estadio Nacional in Tegucigalpa and Groups F and H being based in Estadio Morazán in San Pedro Sula. The groups are as follows:
    Group E: United States, Cuba, Canada, St. Kitts and Nevis
    Group F: Mexico, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname
    Group G: Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Aruba
    Group H: Honduras, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Antigua and Barbuda


    The top three teams will join the four qualifiers in the Round of 16, with all action from the Quarterfinals onwards taking place in San Pedro Sula's 37,000-seater Estadio Olímpico, the home of the Honduras senior national team. Both finalists will reach the Olympic Games, and all four semi-finalists will also qualify for the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia. Players have to be born in 2003 or later, with no overage players.


    For these young athletes, this is a huge opportunity. Since 1964 there has been a specific CONCACAF qualification tournament, but now this competition carries that torch instead, and there is a chance to become a hero. In the last Games, Mexico and Honduras qualified from this region, and they will be hoping to repeat that feat. The United States are defending champions from 2018 after the 2020 edition was cancelled. With an extra incentive this time, it promises to be an exciting tournament, where names once unknown can be thrust into the spotlight in the most famous and lucrative sport of all.


    Patrick Green

    Writer, Totallympics News


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