The biggest game of the group stage of the 2017 CONCACAF Men's U-17 Championship was unquestionably Mexico vs USA - the match-up featuring the two teams expected to make the final of the tournament. El Tri carried a 25-game unbeaten streak in CONCACAF U-17 Championships into the game, and the USA had never beaten Mexico in this tournament. That changed on April 26, 2017: the USA pulled out a 4-3 win that wasn't quite as close as the final score suggests.
Mexico opened the scoring in the sixth minute and finished it in injury time, and the game was tied, 2-2, at half-time. But the Americans broke the game open with two goals in the second half - the second arriving in the 84th minute and effectively settling the match. Mexico's last, late goal was mere consolation.
These teams will likely see each other again in the final, but they part ways for now. The USA has clinched top spot in Group C, and can do as it pleases with its last group stage game - against El Salvador on April 29. Mexico's last match in Group C, against Jamaica, is now a knockout game: winner goes through to the next round (a tie will send El Tri to the Classification Stage on goal difference). The Mexicans are heavy favorites to beat their Jamaican counterparts, but the game still needs to be played and won (or tied) over 90 minutes.
The reason Jamaica still has a shot is that it beat El Salvador in its second game of the group stage. Both the Jamaicans and Salvadorans had taken heavy losses in their opening matches - against the USA and Mexico respectively. They each had the chance to create a happier memory of the tournament in the game against each other.
Jamaica opened the scoring in the 18th minute and held that 1-0 lead through half-time. But El Salvador looked the likelier team to score next, and eventually did when Ronald Cerritos converted a 54th-minute penalty. Next, Jamaica lost Calwayne Allen to a second yellow card in the 64th minute.
Up a man, it seemed only a matter of time before El Salvador found a second goal. But the Jamaicans didn't lie down and got a very fortunate penalty in the 82nd minute (the ball bounced up unexpectedly and caught a defender's outstretched arm). The spot-kick was missed, but Kaheem Parris knocked in the rebound. In injury-time, he added another goal from a well-taken free-kick on the edge of the area.
With Mexico up next, the 3-1 win over El Salvador is expected to be all Jamaica has to celebrate at this tournament. But the team has given itself a chance to spring a surprise.
El Salvador was eliminated from the competition with the loss to Jamaica. It has one group stage game left to play - against the USA - but no result can get it to the next round.
Group C concludes on April 29.