Copa México de Naciones: A Premier International u-15 Tournament

“El futuro del fútbol mundial nuevamente estará en México mostrando sus cualidades”

“The future of world football will again be in Mexico showcasing their talents” – a promotion commonly used in press releases for the Copa México de Naciones

Last year marked the first edition of the Copa México de Naciones which ran from June 18 until June 24. The tournament invited the following 8 teams: Mexico, Spain, Nigeria, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Canada, and United States. Nigeria decided not to attend the tournament which prompted organizers to include an all star youth team from Mexico’s amateur Third Division, which is actually the fourth tier of the country’s league system. This last minute addition was listed as “Mexico II” in the proceedings.

Both in 2012 and 2013, the tournament rules stipulate two 35 minute halves with a 10 minute break for halftime. This is crucial as the group stage games are played on consecutive days.

The United States team went 1-1-1 in group B of the 2012 tournament; beating Costa Rica, drawing Colombia, and losing to Spain. Mexico II beat Mexico in penalties in one semifinal match while Colombia defeated Spain in a penalty shootout in the other. Colombia lost to Mexico II after the final went into extra rounds of penalties.

Here is the U.S. roster for 2012’s tournament coached by Tony LePore:
Goalkeepers (2): J.T. Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes Academy; Alamo CA), Abraham Romero (LA Galaxy Academy; Altadena, CA)
Defender (7): David Chavez (Juventus Sport Club; Redwood City, CA), Chris Gomez (PDA; Jamison, PA), Malcolm Jones (Chivas USA Academy; Chino Hills, CA), Pablo Pelaez (Albion SC; San Diego, CA), Peter Schropp (Omaha FC; Omaha, NE), Max Stiegwardt (Minnesota Thunder Academy.; Maple Grove, MN), Sean Wilson (PDA; Bethlehem, PA)
Midfielders (8): Amir Bashti (San Jose Earthquakes Academy; Cupertino, CA), Coy Craft (FC Dallas Academy; Frisco, TX), Collin Fernandez (Chicago Fire Academy; Downers Grove, IL), Maduabuchi Obinwa (FC America Premier; Gotha, FL), Martin Salas (FC Dallas Academy; Dallas, TX), Ben Swanson (Columbus Crew Academy; Grove City, OH), Alejandro Vergara (LA Galaxy Academy; Long Beach, CA), DJ Villegas (Davis Legacy; Sacramento, CA)
Forwards (3): Mukwelle Akale (Minnesota Thunder Academy; Minneapolis, MN), Malcolm Dixon (NY Red Bulls Academy; Montclair, NJ), Sebastian Elney (Boca United; Lake Worth, FL)

Most of these players have featured in other youth national team camps, with some featuring for the u-17 squad in the last year.

Copa México de Naciones 2013:
This year’s Copa México de Naciones features 12 teams in 3 groups of 4. The best national teams in the hemisphere sent their youth sides to Mexico City for the start of the tournament on August 10.

Group A: Mexico, Chile, Paraguay, Canada
Group B: United States, Brazil, Uruguay, Panama
Group C: Costa Rica, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba

Because the tournament has 3 groups, the first and second place finishers in each group will advance to the knockout round along with the two top third place teams.

Against Brazil young goalkeeper Kevin Silva came up with a number of important saves to keep the United States in the game. Joe Gallardo Jr. was at the center of action as his two goals helped the U.S. brush aside Panama 4-0 along with tallies from Joshua Perez and Christian Pulisic. Gallardo Jr. then took control of the game against Uruguay, scoring two goals and setting up the third for the 3-1 victory.

U.S. u-15 National Team - credit to Twitter user klinsmannschaft

U.S. U-15 National Team before their match against Uruguay – credit https://twitter.com/klinsmannschaft

The team’s 2-1-0 (W-L-D) record was good enough for first place in Group B and earns the U.S. a quarterfinal appearance on Wednesday morning. Richie Williams, usually u-17 coach, has been at the helm of the U.S. squad at the Copa México de Naciones that has showcased enterprising and attacking soccer in its three games so far.

The roster for the 2013 Copa México de Naciones is:
Goalkeepers (2): Abraham Romero (LA Galaxy Academy), Kevin Silva (PDA)
Defenders (7): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls Academy), Hugo Arellano (Chivas USA Academy), Daniel Barbir (PDA), Edwin Lara (Alliance Soccer Club), John Nelson (Internationals), Matthew Olosunde (New York Red Bulls Academy), Alexis Velela (San Diego Surf)
Midfielders (5): Christian Albelo (Hoffenheim/GER), Eric Calvillo (Real So Cal), Logan Panchot (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri), Nicholas Taitague (FC Richmond), Alejandro Zendejas (FC Dallas Academy)
Forwards (6): Kevin Coleman (FC Richmond), Joe Gallardo (Monterrey/MEX), David Loera (Orlando City Academy), Joshua Perez (Fiorentina/ITA), Christian Pulisic (PA Classics), Haji Wright (LA Galaxy Academy).

These 20 players were selected from 44 young Americans after a large training camp at the National Training Center in Carson, California.

Read here for some information on Canada’s squad that went 1-2-0 (W-L-D) and finished last in Group A.

Marco Antonio “Chima” Ruiz is the coach of Mexico’s u-15 team this cycle and had high hopes due to Mexico’s strong youth team performances in recent years. Perhaps the expectations were too much to bear as the hosts underpeformed in the group stage.

Here is Mexico’s u-15 squad:
Goalkeepers (2): Marco Sebastián Bernal Arellano, Joel Raymundo García Chacón
Defenders (7): Jesús Eduardo González Mendivil, Ernesto Damián Vázquez Gutiérrez, Joaquín Esquivel Martínez, Giovani Domínguez Morales, Gualberto Castro Velázquez, Luis Fernando Cruz Jimenez, Javier Valenzuela Becerra
Midfielders (8): Fernando Beltran Cruz, Pablo Cesar López Martínez, Nahúm Gómez Del Rosal, Ricardo Marín Sánchez, Alejandro Zamudio Galindo, Javier Alejandro Leal Ruíz Cruz, Abraham Guadalupe Rosas Quiroz, Salvador Reyes Chávez
Forwards (3): Claudio Zamudio Godínez, Kevin Uriel Magaña Araujo, Hugo Efren Aguirre Doria

Joaquín Esquivel put Mexico ahead early in the second half with a fantastic header before Chile scored twice in 5 minutes to come from behind. Following the 2-1 loss to Chile, Mexico again led their opposition thanks to a goal from Claudio Zamudio before Paraguay stormed back to win 3-1.

Mexico went into the third match day knowing they had to win big and get help from the other two groups; the host team did their part. The young Aztecas knocked 7 goals past Canada highlighted by Claudio Zamudio’s hattrick and Ricardo Marín’s brace.

The four quarterfinal matchups will be played on Wednesday morning at 10am and 12pm local time:
QF1: United States vs Costa Rica
QF2: Colombia vs Uruguay
QF3: Paraguay vs Brazil
QF4: Chile vs Argentina

QF1 Winner will play QF2 Winner while QF3 Winner plays QF4 Winner on Friday ahead of the Final match on Sunday.

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