The Charleston Battery's Deklan Wynne, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC's Jahmali Waite and North Carolina FC's Nelson Flores Blanco are among those called up for international duty this week.
The 2023 USL Championship and League One seasons might just have kicked off, but crunch time arrives for numerous players across both leagues in the coming week in the form of the Concacaf Nations League.
A total of 22 players from the Championship and League One have been called up to represent 12 countries in the next 10 days with the potential for senior debuts, a place at the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup, or even maybe a berth in then Concacaf Nations League Finals this summer ahead.
Here’s what you need to know.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC's Jairo Henriquez and El Salvador will try to upset the odds as they face the United States at Orlando's Exploria Stadium next Monday night in the Concacaf Nations League. | Photo courtesy Mark Reis / Colorado Springs Switc
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC playmaker Jairo Henriquez puts it succinctly.
“We can show one more time, Salvadoran players have the talent to compete,” he told USLChampionship.com recently. “This is an opportunity as a group to start to dream, if we want to be in the finals.”
For Henriquez and El Salvador teammates Bryan Tamacas (Oakland Roots SC) and Nelson Flores Blanco (North Carolina FC), the challenge of taking on the current boss in Concacaf – the United States Men’s National Team – is one they are looking forward to with a place in the Concacaf Nations League Finals on the line next Monday at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium.
La Selecta earned a 1-1 draw when the teams played last June in San Salvador, a game in which Henriquez and Tamacas both started.
Grenada will also take on the USMNT on Friday night with the Charleston Battery’s AJ Paterson and Benjamin Etienne both selected as the side looks forward to the Gold Cup’s preliminary qualifying in June with eyes on a surprise on its home turf of Kirani James Athletic Stadium in St. George's.
Elsewhere in Concacaf Nations League A, Jamaica and goalkeepers Jahmali Waite (Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC) and Amal Knight (Lexington SC) and midfielder Kevon Lambert (Phoenix Rising FC) will face another of the region’s powers with a clash against Mexico on Sunday night at Estadio Azteca. The Reggae Boyz will also have a chance to upset the odds against El Tri after playing to a 1-1 draw when they met in Kingston last June.
The Charleston Battery's Leland Archer is among four USL Championship players selected in Trinidad and Tobago's squad this week. | Photo courtesy Ben Clemens / Charleston Battery
In Concacaf Nations League B, the prospect of automatic qualification for the 2023 Gold Cup and promotion into League A for the 2023-24 edition of the tournament is at hand for Championship and League One players.
At the forefront is a potential head-to-head battle in Group A, where Cuba and Guadeloupe are currently even on nine points for top spot. Tampa Bay Rowdies goalkeeper Raiko Arozarena and FC Tulsa defender Jorge Corrales have been called up by Cuba, while Sacramento Republic FC forward Luther Archimede is in Guadeloupe’s squad, with the sides set to close group stage play on Sunday afternoon in Santiago de Cuba.
Also in the second tier, Trinidad and Tobago could feature four Championship players as it looks to pass Nicaragua for top spot in Group B with Shannon Gomez (San Antonio FC), Leland Archer (Charleston Battery), Triston Hodge (Hartford Athletic) and Ryan Telfer (Miami FC) all called up, while Republic FC’s Zeiko Lewis will try to help Bermuda reach the qualifying rounds of the Gold Cup in games against Guyana and Haiti.
San Diego Loyal SC's Kyle Adams could make his senior international debut for New Zealand as it hosts China for a pair of international exhibitions. | Photo courtesy San Diego Loyal SC
San Diego Loyal SC’s Kyle Adams received his first call-up to New Zealand’s senior national team last September. As the side faces China for a pair of games in the next week, he’ll be hoping to make his debut, with the Charleston Battery’s Deklan Wynne also in the group selected for the exhibitions in New Zealand.
Adams has made 125 appearances in the Championship’s regular season since his debut for Rio Grande Valley FC in 2018. After helping SD Loyal to consecutive shutouts to start the new campaign, a first cap is hopefully right around the corner.
USL CHAMPIONSHIP AND LEAGUE ONE PLAYERS CALLED UP FOR INTERNATIONAL DUTY (MARCH 2023)
Belize (1) – Michael Salazar (Miami FC)
Bermuda (1) – Zeiko Lewis (Sacramento Republic FC)
Central African Republic (1) – Donald Benanma (Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC)
Cuba (2) – Raiko Arozarena (Tampa Bay Rowdies), Jorge Corrales (FC Tulsa)
El Salvador (3) – Bryan Tamacas (Oakland Roots SC), Jairo Henriquez (Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC), Nelson Flores Blanco (North Carolina FC)
Guadeloupe (1) – Luther Archimede (Sacramento Republic FC)
Guatemala (1) – Ricardo Jerez (Chattanooga Red Wolves SC)
Grenada (2) – Benjamin Etienne (Charleston Battery), AJ Paterson (Charleston Battery)
Jamaica (3) – Jahmali Waite (Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC), Amal Knight (Lexington SC), Kevon Lambert (Phoenix Rising FC)
New Zealand (2) – Kyle Adams (San Diego Loyal SC), Deklan Wynne (Charleston Battery)
Trinidad and Tobago (4) – Shannon Gomez (San Antonio FC), Leland Archer (Charleston Battery), Triston Hodge (Hartford Athletic), Ryan Telfer (Miami FC)
St. Vincent and the Grenadines (1) – Oalex Anderson (North Carolina FC)