The Cayman Islands Under 20 Men’s National Football Team traveled to Sunrise, Florida Friday for a four-day training camp in preparation for the 2018 CONCACAF Men’s Under-20 Championships scheduled for Nov. 1 to Nov. 10 at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
At the CONCACAF Championships, the Cayman Islands will compete in Group F and face El Salvador on Sunday, Nov. 4; Guyana on Tuesday, Nov. 6; Guatemala on Thursday, Nov. 8 and Curacao on Saturday, Nov. 10. The group winner will advance to the quarterfinals, and then the semifinals and the chance to represent CONCACAF at the 2019 FIFA Under 20 Men’s World Cup Finals to be played in Poland.
After landing in Florida, the 18-player squad was joined by eight overseas-based players who currently ply their trade at colleges and clubs in the United States and the United Kingdom. The 26-player squad will be put through their paces during the training camp and will play two practice games before a final squad of 22 players will travel to the CONCACAF Championships in Bradenton.
The squad is under the tutelage of a very experienced coaching team, which includes Head Coach Ernie “Gillie” Seymour, Assistant Coach Lee Ramoon, Assistant Coach Collin Rowe, Assistant Coach Ken Downey, team Manager Antwan Seymour and Equipment Manager Andrew Holness.
President of the Cayman Islands Football Association Alfredo Whittaker said, “We are very excited about this group’s participation in the Under-20 Championships. Over the years, we have seen this group develop into one of the better young male teams the Cayman Islands has produced. With CONCACAF now hosting only one qualifying tournament in each age group, it gives us the opportunity to play traditionally strong footballing countries such as El Salvador and Guatemala, as well as established Caribbean countries like Guyana and Curacao.”
This will be the third major Caribbean Football Union and CONCACAF tournament this particular group of players have participated in over the past seven years. The group was formed directly from the CUC Primary Football League in 2011, and have participated in the CFU Boys’ Under-15 Championships in 2015, where they finished third, and the CFU Boys’ Under-17 World Cup Playoffs in 2017, where they finished runners-up in their group to two-time Caribbean Under-17 champions Haiti.
In recent years, CIFA has made it a point to increase participation in national team tournaments, especially in the youth age groups. Because of this, a number of youth national programs have been formed years in advance of scheduled major regional tournaments, so players get the chance to learn, develop and play together at the national level in preparation.
CIFA now boasts national teams in the Under-15 age group (boys and girls), Under-17 (boys and girls) and Under-20 (men’s and women’s), as well as a senior men’s team. Plans are in place to put together a men’s and women’s Under 23 program for Olympic qualifiers, which begin in 2019, as well as a senior women’s team.