The United States Men’s National Team opened the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 1-1 draw against Jamaica. Next on the schedule is Saint Kitts and Nevis, an island nation that forged through the Preliminary Round to reach the final tournament for the first time in program history. As advancing may come down to goal differential, this fixture takes on particular importance for the full 90 minutes. The match is set for CITYPARK in St. Louis, Missouri, a 22,423-venue that opened in November of 2022 and hosted the USWNT last April.
This is the first all-time meeting between the two nations. Ranked 139th internationally by FIFA in April, Saint Kitts and Nevis – known constitutionally as Saint Christopher and Nevis, the “smallest country in the Americas in both land area and population” with approximately 53,104 people – took the long road to the Gold Cup by topping League C Group B in the 2022-2023 CONCACAF Nations League with a 4-0-0 record, finishing ahead of Aruba and Saint Martin. In the qualifier rounds, The Sugar Boyz took down Curaçao in a shootout, 1-1 (3-2), before dispatching French Guiana, again in penalties, 1-1 (4-2). The tournament run opened with a 3-0 loss to Trinidad and Tobago.
Austin “Dico” Huggins was hired to the manager role in January of 2022. The 53-year-old retired midfielder from the capital city of Basseterre spent over a decade with the national team as a player and is also currently in charge of domestic club side St. Peters, currently at sixth in the table. In March, footballing great Claude Makélélé was appointed as a technical advisor.
Huggins named an initial 23-player roster for the Gold Cup, a healthy mix of veterans and younger talents, but there have been some changes following the qualifying stage. The domestic SKNFA Premier League is home to several of the call-ups, while many also compete at various levels spanning the English pyramid. Three members of the squad were named to the Best XI for the Prelims.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jamal Jeffers (St. Paul’s United), Julani Archibald (Lorca Deportiva), Xander Parke (Shrewsbury Town)
DEFENDERS (8): Malique Roberts (Cayon Rockets), Gerard Williams (Unattached), Andre Burley (Oxford City), Jameel Ible (Guiseley), Dihjorn Simmonds (Cayon Rockets), Ezrick Nicholls (University of Tampa), Raheem Hanley (Stalybridge Celtic), Lois Maynard (Unattached)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Yohannes Mitchum (Newtown United), Tyquan Terrell (St. Peter’s), Raheem Somersall (North Carolina FC), Mervin Lewis (Cayon Rockets), Romaine Sawyers (Cardiff City), Ronaldo Belgrove (Miami City)
FORWARDS (6): Tiquanny Williams (Old Road Jets), Carlos Bertie (Cayon Rockets), Jacob Hazel (Darlington), Keithroy Freeman (St. Paul’s United), Rowan Liburd (Ramsgate), Omari Sterling-James (Ebbsfleet United)
Huggins typically deploys a 4-3-3 formation but has experimented with a 3-5-2 at the club level when attempting to force the issue. The attack plays fast and direct, looking to spring the forwards with vertical passes followed by one-two exchanges closer to goal. St. Kitts and Nevis will utilize long throw-ins whenever possible in the final third, looking to set up a header. On the defensive side of the game, clearances and steering away loose balls can sometimes present an issue, gifting the opponent extra opportunities.
The clear number-one goalkeeper is Julani Archibald who competes with Lorca Deportiva in the Spanish fifth division. He was named Player of the Match for his heroic performance in the final preliminary match against French Guiana. Standing at 6’4”, he has good coverage of the net and moves quickly into full extensions, withstanding any tests from long distance and impressing on penalty attempts. His acrobatic nature enables him to pull off more than a few unexpected stops, although his focus on parrying the ball away can lead to second opportunities and corner kicks.
Lois Maynard, most recently with Oldham Athletic, was a late addition to the squad and started the opening match against Trinidad and Tobago. He can be dangerous on set pieces and is a capable passer, looking to advance the ball to the wingers. His likely partner is Andre Burley, who recently completed the first full season of his career, making 43 combined appearances for Oxford City as the Hoops were promoted out of the sixth-tier National League South. The 23-year-old England-born centre-back is at his best when getting into physical battles with target strikers and impeding their progress.
A former England youth international, Raheem Hanley completed the most recent season with Runcorn Linnets in the eighth-tier Northern Premier League Division One West. The 29-year-old left fullback looks to play long passes and has good speed, tracking behind his teammates to shut down breakaways. On the other side of the back line is Malique Roberts of domestic side Cayon Rockets. He adopts a more defensive posture and focuses on one-on-one duels, looking to distribute the ball as quickly as possible after regaining possession.
Raheem Somersall competes with North Carolina FC in the USL League One, providing a high passing accuracy and working his way out of trouble. He will play long balls from a deep position in the formation and spring attackers while also taking an active role in the final third. Cardiff City’s Romaine Sawyers can add “a strong tackle, a nice piece of skill, and the final delivery,” able to dictate the game from the midfield. The 31-year-old Brummie excels at bringing down opposing dribbles and can be relied upon for the occasional goal. The trio should be completed by Yohannes Mitchum of domestic outfit Newtown United, a starter in every Nations League and Gold Cup Prelims fixture. His physical play and aggressive involvements are essential in disrupting the opponents, often pressing from the advanced destroyer role.
Omari Sterling-James appeared in 39 National League South matches last season, helping Ebbsfleet United run away with the title with a 20-point lead. The 29-year-old goes through spells of high production, using his elusive dribbling to advance possession up the field and looking to dart inside for a long shot. At right winger is domestically-based Tiquanny Williams, always breaking out on the counter-attack or pouncing on a loose ball in the mixer while competing with United Old Road Jets in the capital city of Basseterre. He is one of the most dangerous players in the SKNFA Premier League and has brought his form to The Sugar Boyz, scoring crucial goals against Saint Martin and French Guiana.
The formation is led by Jacob Hazel, who recently made his return to the program after three friendly appearances in 2016 and 2017. The 29-year-old forward has been on a torrid run of form, scoring 19 goals last season for Darlington in the National League North and found the back of the net 34 times the previous year at Whitby Town in the Northern Premier League Premier Division. He can produce in any way imaginable: long shots, running onto the ball, beating defenders off of the dribble, pouncing on spillages, and winning duels in the box. His manager describes him as “good and strong with a low centre of gravity,” noting “little turns in the area” are “his bread and butter,” putting the overwhelming majority of his chances on target. If the match stays tight, there could be an opportunity for Keithroy Freeman of St. Paul’s, who bagged a brace against Aruba to close out the Nations League. The target player has been a regular fixture up top, engaging in physical battles to claim possession and distributing nifty layoffs to teammates.
Saint Kitts and Nevis made history by reaching the Gold Cup, gaining crucial momentum heading into 2026 World Cup qualifying. The USMNT has more talent on the squad and should pick up three points against a likely-to-be overmatched opponent, perhaps enjoying the opportunity to build attacking chemistry following a trying outing against Trinidad and Tobago. The end result could be clear by halftime, unless The Sugar Boyz find a little more tournament magic and pull off a momentous upset.
The match is scheduled for Wednesday, June 28th at 9:30 p.m. Eastern, 6:30 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include Fox Sports 1, TUDN USA, UniMás, and FUBO TV (free trial).