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2017 CONCACAF Men's U-17 Championship: Honduras and Costa Rica take big steps toward World Cup qualification

These games appear to have settled the question of which CONCACAF teams other than the USA and Mexico would go to this year's U-17 World Cup.

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

The Classification Stage of the 2017 CONCACAF Men's U-17 Championship got underway on May 1. In the first game of the tournament's second group stage, Honduras thrashed Cuba, 7-1. Los Catrachos opened the scoring in the 11th minute, and had six goals on the board by half-time. Carlos Mejia helped himself to a first-half hat-trick; Patrick Palacios' third goal of the game was the last Honduras scored, in the 73rd minute. The well-beaten Cubans at least continued their record of scoring in every game they have played to date in this Championship, thanks to Brian Savigne's 87th-minute consolation goal.

Honduras' big win should be enough to see the team through to the 2017 U-17 World Cup in India later this year. Cuba is not expected to be able to beat the USA - the other team in Group D of the Classification Stage - and the top two from the group will qualify for the World Cup.

Still, there are still games to be played. Cuba is not technically eliminated, and will go into its last game of the Classification Stage on May 5 with some theoretical possibility of salvaging is World Cup qualifying campaign. Before that, Honduras will play the USA on May 3 - a game the US is expected to win, but Los Catrachos have proven repeatedly that their quick and potent attack is a handful for defenses at this level. And as Cuba can attest, if the relentless Honduran forwards are not shut down effectively, they can put a game out of reach surprisingly quickly.

In the other Classification Stage group, Panama and Costa Rica are considered to be competing for one World Cup qualifying place because Mexico is assumed to be assured the other. As such, the opening game of Group E was effectively a play-off between Los Canaleros and Los Ticos for a ticket to India.

In a relatively even game, it was Costa Rica that struck first, through Jose Alfaro in the 31st minute. Karin Arce added a second for Los Ticos in the 41st. But Panama never really looked out of the match, and Eduardo Guerrero scored for the host team in the 44th minute.

Despite Panama's best efforts to find an equalizer in the second half, Costa Rice held on for the 2-1 win.

To retrieve its World Cup qualifying hopes, Panama must beat Mexico on May 3, or tie and hope Costa Rica beats El Tri by a couple of goals on May 5. Neither scenario seems probably, since Mexico is the heavy favorte to win Group E of the Classification Stage. But Los Canaleros at least still have some say in their destiny: get a result against El Tri, and they can at least stave off elimination until Costa Rica plays Mexico.