Any analysis of potential at the U-17 level comes with usual disclaimers: "Current performance is no indicator of future results." But this version of Mexico's U-17s takes plenty of advantages, and optimism, into World Cup qualifying in April.
It starts with the two stars on the jersey and the psychological boost of knowing that El Tri is a two-time and defending world champion at this level. Having won two of the last four U-17 World Cups speaks to the quality coming out of the youth ranks of Liga MX teams of late, and puts this Mexican team firmly among the favorites heading into the 2013 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
Beyond the world class pedigree, though, this generation has been getting results at every turn in 2012, coming up champions in their last three international tournaments.
The summer kicked off with a dominant display at the Copa Saprissa in Costa Rica, where El Tri took out several of the top regional contenders, including the U.S., twice. That pair of wins over the Americans -- the second coming in the final -- avenged a defeat to the neighbors earlier in the year and anointed Mexico as the undisputed team to beat going into regional qualifying next year.
Even more impressive than the results in Costa Rica, though, was the manner in which El Tri steamrolled the field, beating Honduras 2-0, the U.S. and then Costa Rica 3-0 in the opening round, before giving up a lone goal -- their only conceded in six games in the tournament -- in a 3-1 final win over the Americans.
The final tally -- 17 goals scored to one conceded in six matches -- speaks to that Mexican dominance over the region at this level. So with qualifying for the World Cup likely a foregone conclusion for the defending champions, it's only reasonable for El Tri to be looking beyond CONCACAF at the U-17 level.