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Canada Soccer – Canada takes a big step on the road to the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019 with five matches over nine days in the opening group phase of the 2018 Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championship.

Canada open against Dominica on Friday 2 November before facing Guadeloupe, Panama, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Martinique in successive matches every second day through 10 November. From 34 nations split into six groups, only the six group winners advance to the next round.

Fans can watch Canada’s matches live on as well as follow Canada’s journey across Canada Soccer’s digital channels on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. All the matches will be played at IMG Center in Bradenton, FL, USA.

“It is important for us to go in and start on the right foot, so we can’t look past our first match against Dominica,” said Andrew Olivieri, Canada Soccer’s Men’s EXCEL U-20 Program Director. “Everyone is embracing the new culture that we are instilling and we have some players that were at the Toulon tournament that bring a foundation to our tactical identity.”

All 20 players in the competition have experience in Canada Soccer’s Men’s EXCEL Program, benefitting from more than 1,100 cumulative days from the U-15 to U-21 age category. Twelve of the 20 players have participated in a previous Concacaf youth competition while 10 of them helped Canada finish in sixth place at the prestigious Festival international Espoirs Provence Toulon tournament this past summer.

For the first time, the Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championship features 34 nations. From the six nations that advance to the championship round, only four will qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019.

“There is a great opportunity for players to earn the jersey and progress to the Men’s National Team program,” said Olivieri. “It is an opportunity for our young players to show their talent, show how they cope at the international level, and ultimately grow into the Canadian jersey.”

READ: Canada squad for the 2018 Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championship

The road to the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019 through Concacaf competition is a challenging task, with Canada’s last qualification at a FIFA men’s youth tournament in 2013 and last participation at a FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2007. With the revamped format of 34 nations and now five group opponents in the initial phase, Canada will face strong opposition across a tough schedule with five matches in nine days.

“It’s going to be tough qualifying as it always is, but we are at the start of a new journey with our program laying the foundations of culture and tactical identity,” said John Herdman, Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team Head Coach and Men’s EXCEL Program Director. “We have a new Men’s EXCEL Program that will begin to expose our players more consistently to those foundations, yet we know that our players are highly motivated and will be giving their best to qualify.”

Canada Soccer’s Men’s EXCEL Program channels our nation’s exceptional players into the best soccer environments. The Canada Soccer Pathway works in collaboration with our provincial and territory partners as well as the professional clubs and academies. For Canada’s elite players, the program emphasizes player development on the pathway to representing Canada’s Men’s National Team.

Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Youth Teams have won two Concacaf titles: both the 1986 and 1996 Concacaf Men’s Youth Championships. Canada have qualified for eight editions of the FIFA U-20 World Cup and six editions of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.