A win over Costa Rica on Sunday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, will send Sean Fleming's team to the age-group world championship for the third time in a row.
Canada (3-1-1) wasted an opportunity Thursday to qualify directly by winning its pool after Mexico dropped points in a 1-1 tie with Costa Rica. A victory over Panama later in the day would have vaulted Canada over the Mexicans but the chance was missed in a 1-0 loss.
Honduras won the other group to book its berth to the U-17 World Cup in Chile in October. The U.S. meets Jamaica in the other playoff Sunday for the other qualification berth.
For the young Canadians, Sunday's game will be the sixth in 15 days with the pressure building each time out.
"It's been a long tournament but I give the kids all the credit," Fleming said Saturday. "They've really just stuck to the task and done everything they can to get the best performances they can out of themselves."
On the plus side, Fleming said all of his players are available with no health or suspension issues. And they are over the costly loss Thursday.
"We addressed it in the dressing room right after," he said. "In a tournament like this you have to have short memories."
The young Canadian men edged the Costa Ricans 3-2 in group play March 3, rallying from being down 1-0 and 2-1.
Costa Rica (3-1-1) has not lost since, winning two and tying one.
Fleming's advice to his team has been to keep it simple — stay in the moment, be disciplined and do your job.
"One of the boys said this morning this is the biggest game of our lives and I said, 'Thus far.' I said, 'I hope you have many big games like this in your careers.'"
Fleming's team has received messages of support from past under-17 sides as well as members of Canada's 1986 World Cup team.
Canada's under-20 side failed earlier in the year to advance to its world championship.
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