Canadian soccer must look beyond the 36-year drought-busting qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and co-hosting the 2026 World Cup. The process begins with the 23 players named this week to the Canadian team, including Liam MacKenzie of Comox, for the U-17 CONCACAF championship this month in Guatemala.
Canada, coached by Andrew Olivieri, opens Feb. 11 against Trinidad and Tobago and plays Barbados on Feb. 13 and the U.S. on Feb. 15. The top three sides in the group will advance to the Sweet Sixteen. The quarter-finals are Feb. 21-22, semifinals Feb. 24 and final Feb. 26 at the Estadio Doroteo Guamuch Flores.
The top four nations in the CONCACAF tournament will qualify for the 2023 FIFA U-17 World Cup from Nov. 10 to Dec. 2 in Peru.
Canada was the CONCACAF U-17 tournament runner-up in 2011 and has been third-place finisher five times. There have been 19 FIFA U-17 World Cups with Canada having been to seven of them, with those being the international starting points for several of the players who played for the senior national team at Qatar 2022.
Canada was most recently in the FIFA U-17 World Cup at Brazil in 2019, the last edition hosted before the pandemic.
MacKenzie is among four B.C. players named to the Canadian team along with defender Aidan Fong from Vancouver Killarney, forward Kyler Vojvodic of Port Coquitlam and midfielder Jeevan Badwal of Surrey FC. All four train with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Academy, in which MacKenzie was captain of the U-15 Whitecaps. The Islander scored four goals for Whitecaps Academy in the U-17 Generation Adidas tournament last year in Dallas against other Major League Soccer academy teams and those from clubs such as Manchester United, Celtic, Porto and AS Roma.
MacKenzie is one of the youngest players on the Canadian U-17 team and among four 15-year-olds on a squad containing 17 players who are 16-years-old. The youngest player is 14-year-old midfielder Richard Chukwu of Toronto FC Academy.
MacKenzie is a two-way box-to-box central midfielder who came up through the Vancouver Island Wave of Victoria in the elite youth B.C. Soccer Premier League and also held his own against much older players in the Vancouver Island Soccer League Div. 1 as a member of the Comox Valley United.