Beach Soccer is a different animal from the more conventional form of the game that typically preoccupies Once A Metro. It's a five-a-side format, with unlimited subs swapping in and out from a seven-man bench. Games are divided into three 12-minute periods, the clock stops when play stops, and there can be no ties - three minutes of extra time is allocated to break a tie, followed by a penalty shoot-out if necessary. Get a fuller description of the FIFA rules of the game here.
Currently, the Beach Soccer world has eyes on the Bahamas, where the 2017 CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship is being played. The tournament will advance two teams to the 2017 Beach Soccer World Cup (Bahamas is already qualified as the host). February 24 will see the quarterfinals played, narrowing the field to its final four.
Among the last eight is the USA. The squad includes former New York Red Bulls player Irving Garcia, once - and still - admired by New York soccer reporter Dave Martinez.
@MarkFishkin Late bloomer. Now watch him take over the soccer loving world. One sandy beach at a time. #IBelieve— Dave Martinez (@DaveMartinezNY) February 24, 2017
Garcia scored twice in the USA's 5-1 win over Trinidad and Tobago in the group stage.
The Americans won all three of their group stage games, but face a tougher test in the quarterfinals. Panama emerged as the runner-up in Group D, finishing behind El Salvador and beating out Costa Rica and the Turks and Caicos.
Per BeachSoccer.com's world rankings, Panama is considered the eighth-best team in CONCACAF, but it took higher-ranked opponents - El Salvador (second in CONCACAF) and Costa Rica (fourth in the region) - to penalties in its group stage games, winning one shootout (against Costa Rica) and losing the other.
The USA is also ranked higher (third in CONCACAF) than Panama, but Los Canaleros have already proven they can take heavier-weight opponents the distance in this tournament.
The winner of this game progresses to the semifinals, which will be played on February 25.