The 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship has reached its short and sweet Classification Stage. There are six teams left, four of them will qualify for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, and two of those qualifiers will play for the title of CONCACAF U-20 Champion.
The six teams are divided into two groups of three. The three teams in each group play each other once; the top two make the World Cup; the group winner makes the final: every game counts now.
The USA lost its opening game of the group stage to Panama, but has bounced back so well it should now be considered the favorite to win the Championship - because the CONCACAF U-20 Championship is invariably won by Mexico, and the USA beat Mexico in the opening game of its Classification Stage group.
In the other group, Honduras and Panama opened proceedings - and Los Catrachos laid down their own marker with a 2-0 win over the team that beat the USA in the group stage. Inside the first two games of the Classification Stage, the two unbeaten teams to emerge from the Group Stage - Mexico and Panama - were beaten.
This is an up-and-down tournament - which may be taken as a sign of competitive parity among the top teams - and there may be further surprises up to and including the final. But Honduras and the USA can lay claim to having found momentum at just the right time: the final is on March 5.
Honduras' Douglas Martinez is expected to join New York Red Bulls II after this tournament. He can be credited with an assist on his team's opening goal against Panama - but really the 6th minute strike was almost entirely the work of scorer Darixon Vuelto. Jorge Alvarez followed with another long-ranger in the 81st minute.
Honduras' second and last game of the Classification Stage is against host Costa Rica on March 1.