Bayern Munich-bound Alphonso Davies is one of five teenagers summoned by coach John Herdman for Canada’s CONCACAF qualifying game against the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sept. 9.
The 17-year-old Davies, slated to join the German powerhouse after his MLS season with the Vancouver Whitecaps, is joined by goalkeeper Alessandro Busti, forwards Jonathan David and Liam Millar (all 18) and fullback Zachary Brault-Guillard (19).
Brault-Guillard, Busti, David and 20-year-old centre back Derek Cornelius have yet to win a senior cap, although they have represented Canada at the youth level. Only Cornelius has had a previous call-up to the men’s team – in March.
Brault-Guillard is in the Olympique Lyonnais program in France while Busti plays for the Juventus reserves in Italy, Cornelius for Serbia’s FK Javor Ivanjica and David for Belgium’s KAA Gent.
Millar, who plays for Liverpool’s under-23 side, and midfielder Jonathan Wotherspoon (Scotland’s St. Johnstone) made their international debuts in Herdman’s first game as men’s coach – a 1-0 win over New Zealand in March.
The U.S. Virgin Islands game, one of four in the qualifying round, serves as an appetizer for the 2019 debut of a competition showcasing teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean. Eventually the participating CONCACAF countries will be divided into three tiers with promotion and relegation.
Veterans on the Canadian squad include goalkeeper Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade), defenders Dejan Jakovic (Los Angeles FC) and Marcel de Jong (Vancouver Whitecaps), midfielders Scott Arfield (Glasgow Rangers), Junior Hoilett (Cardiff City), Samuel Piette (Montreal Impact) and Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC) and forwards Tosaint Ricketts (Toronto FC) and Cyle Larin (Besiktas).
Whitecaps centre back Doneil Henry returns to the senior side for the first time since 2016.
“It’s a great time and this is a talented group,” Herdman said in a statement. “It’s a period in time where every match matters, adding the sort of pressure that will help bind the group tighter.
“There is no life in between any more, that line was burned brightly into the culture in our first camp in March, 2018. We know what we are here to do and as a group we will either choose to take this team to another level or we won’t, it’s that clear. This is a talented group who have a real shot at qualifying for [the World Cup in] Qatar 2022.”
Missing is veteran captain Atiba Hutchinson (Besiktas).
The only over-30 players called up are Borjan (30), de Jong and Ricketts (both 31) and Jakovic (33).
The Sept. 9 game was scheduled to be played in the U.S. Virgin Islands but has been moved to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., because of a lack of a suitable venue.
After the U.S. Virgin Islands, which is ranked 199th in the world, No. 79 Canada will host No. 177 Dominica on Oct. 16 in Toronto. Canada will then play at No. 135 St. Kitts & Nevis on Nov. 18 and host French Guiana on March 26.
No venue has been announced yet for the home game against French Guiana, which is unranked because it is not a FIFA member.
The new competition will crown the Nations League champion and serve as qualifying for the newly expanded 16-team Gold Cup. It is also expected to influence seeding in future World Cup qualifying.
Europe has already announced similar plans for the UEFA Nations League.
The tournaments are seen as a way to move away from meaningless friendly matches and to ensure all confederation members get meaningful games.
Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, the United States, and Trinidad & Tobago, the six teams that made it to the final round of World Cup qualifying in the region, will bypass the one-off qualifying stage.
Results from the 68 qualifying games will be used to seed Canada and the 33 other contestants into three tiers for the inaugural edition of the full CONCACAF Nations League in 2019.
Goalkeepers: Maxime Crépeau, Ottawa Fury FC (USL); Milan Borjan, Red Star Belgrade (Serbia); Alessandro Busti, Juventus Primavera (Italy).
Defenders: Zachary Brault-Guillard, Olympique Lyonnais (France); Manjrekar James, FC Fredericia (Denmark); Derek Cornelius, FK Javor Ivanjica (Serbia); Dejan Jakovic, Los Angeles FC (MLS); Marcel de Jong, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS).
Midfielders: Samuel Piette, Montreal Impact (MLS); Russell Teibert, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); David Wotherspoon, St. Johnstone FC (Scotland); Junior Hoilett, Cardiff City (Wales); Scott Arfield, Glasgow Rangers (Scotland); Jonathan Osorio, Toronto FC (MLS); Tesho Akindele, FC Dallas (MLS).
Forwards: Cyle Larin, Besiktas (Turkey); Tosaint Ricketts, Toronto FC (MLS); Alphonso Davies, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Jay Chapman, Toronto FC (MLS); Liam Millar, Liverpool FC U-23 (England); Lucas Cavallini, Puebla FC (Mexico); Jonathan David, KAA Gent (Belgium)