The CNMI will not rest on its laurels despite its recent success in two off-island soccer tournaments.
The Commonwealth’s U16 boys national team clinched the championship in the Inaugural Tuloy XO Cup in the Philippines last Sunday, while the islands’ U15 crew had notable performances in the East Asian Football Federation U15 Boys Tournament in Xianghe, China late last month. With two competitions down, the CNMI national teams are getting ready for five more.
“Now, our focus is the EAFF tournament for the men’s and women’s national teams and the Asian Football Confederation events for the women’s U16 and U19 squads plus the Marianas Cup later this year,” Northern Mariana Islands Football Association technical director Michiteru Mita told Saipan Tribune a day after they won the Tuloy XO Cup.
The men’s and women’s national squads will be participating in the EAFF E-1 Preliminary Round 1—a qualifier for the 2019 EAFF E-1 Football Championship and will be held in Ulan Bator in Mongolia from Sept. 2 to 7. They will be up against the host, Macau, and Guam.
Before heading to Mongolia, the men’s team will first go to South Korea for their second training camp that will run from Aug. 26 to 31. The Blue Ayuyus first had their first training camp in Japan last month. As for the women’s squad, it is bound for Japan for its own training camp that will take place from Aug. 27 to 30.
After the tournament in Mongolia, a new batch of national team will then head out with the women’s U16 crew traveling to Tajikistan for the AFC U16 Women’s Championship 2019 Qualifiers. The CNMI players will challenge the host Thailand, Iran, and Singapore in the Group C qualifier that will run from Sept. 15 to 23.
The U16 qualifiers have six groups and 30 teams and the Top 2 finishers in each pool will march into second round. In Round 2, which will be played from Feb. 23 to March 3, 2019, squads will be grouped into two and then the Top 2 in each pool will qualify to the finals to challenge South and North Korea and Japan.
Meanwhile, the CNMI’s U19 women’s team will be in Vietnam for the AFC U19 Women’s Championship 2019 Qualifiers from Oct. 24 to 28. Aside from squaring off against the home squad, the Commonwealth players will also duel Jordan and Malaysia in the Group E qualifier.
The U19 competition also has six groups and the top finisher in each pool and two best second-placed teams will advance to Round 2 where the Top 4 teams will then move into the finals to play against Japan, North Korea, and China. The Round 2 event will take place from April 22 to 30 next year with the host country yet to be determined.
“There are many international competitions lined up for us this year and we are looking forward to seeing continued development from our teams. We are still new and the smallest FA (football association) in Asia, but nothing is impossible, we just have to keep working hard and moving forward,” Mita said.