Action from the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship final between the United States (left) and El Salvador on May 12, 2013, in Nassau, Bahamas. (Photo courtesy of Beach Soccer Worldwide)
PAPEETE, Tahiti -- The 2013 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup kicked off Wednesday, but both CONCACAF teams – the United States and El Salvador – will begin their participation in the competition on Thursday.
The sides qualified for the FIFA event in Tahiti by advancing to May’s CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship final, which the Americans won, 5-4.
The U.S., playing in its fourth Beach Soccer World Cup (previous appearances: 2005, 2006, 2007), was drawn into Group A with the host nation, United Arab Emirates and Spain.
The Americans have never advanced past the group stage, but this might be their strongest squad yet.
Nick Perera led the team in qualifying with 11 goals, including hat-tricks against Guatemala and host Bahamas. Defenders Anthony Chimienti, Brendon Taguinod and Lewie Valentine added three goals each as the U.S. outscored the opposition, 28-11.
Chimienti and Francis Farberoff were both on the 2007 squad.
The U.S. opens against Spain on Thursday, before taking on host Tahiti Saturday and the United Arab Emirates on September 23. All games will be played at Tahua To’ata.
El Salvador, which is competing in the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup for a fourth straight time, has been drawn into Group B with Netherlands, Solomon Islands and Argentina.
Led by tournament MVP Agustin Ruiz, El Salvador booked its ticket with a dramatic victory over Mexico on penalty kicks in the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship semifinals. Franl Velasquez has 11 all-time World Cup goals.
In the 2011 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, El Salvador bounced back from an 11-2 loss to Portugal in the first game of the Group Stage to beat Oman and Argentina by identical 4-3 scores to advance to the knockout stage.
El Salvador defeated Italy, 6-5, in the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Russia, 7-3, in the semifinals.
El Salvador opens the 2013 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Thursday against Argentina before facing the Netherlands Saturday and closing out Group B against Solomon Islands.