The U.S. Under-17 Men’s Youth National Team kicked off the 2023 Concacaf U-17 Championship with a 5-0 win over Barbados in Antigua, Guatemala on Saturday night.

Midfielder Cruz Medina netted a hat-trick, while a flurry of late goals lifted the USA to a convincing victory after dominating in possession.

The Americans sit atop Group F with three points and plus goal differential. Canada defeated Trinidad and Tobago, 3-2, in the first game of the day.

The U.S. faces Trinidad and Tobago on Monday (8 p.m. ET; FS1, ViX+). The top three teams in each group advance to the Round of 16.

The Red, White and Blue controlled the game, out-possessing Barbados 78 percent to 22, and outshooting its foes, 30-2, but had some early trouble finishing its opportunities. Barbados goalkeeper Jireh Malcolm stood tall through much of the game while his defense, often playing with nine in the back, made the USA earn its chances.

As the U.S. searched for the opener, forward Ezekiel Soto was a nuisance on the high press, forcing several errors from Barbados, while attackers Micah Burton, Brian Romero and Medina saw several shots sky wide.

Despite a frustrating start, the breakthrough finally came in the 25th minute. In the aftermath of a corner kick, midfielder Edwyn Mendoza was taken down in the box and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. While Medina’s first PK attempt was saved, the USA stuck with the play, and Soto passed the deflection back to Medina for another shot, this time a tap-in to an empty net.

The U.S. continued to create attacking chances down the stretch and Medina bagged his brace with a far more impressive tally in the 43rd. Running down the center channel, Medina ripped a shot from 30 yards out and sent it over the leaping Malcolm.

Pushing to build its lead after the break, the U.S. was rewarded for its efforts in the game’s closing minutes, scoring three goals in a five-minute stretch. Finally wearing down the Bajan Tridents’ low block, substitute forward Keyrol Figueroa started the frenzy in the 86th minute as he finished off a well-hit cross from Romero. Two minutes later, substitute midfielder Taha Habroune headed in a goal off a corner for his first goal in his international debut. Medina polished off his hat trick in the third minute of second-half stoppage time, tapping in a ball from substitute forward David Vazquez.

The win serves as the U-17 MYNT’s first step towards qualification for the 2023 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru. Following the interruption of programming due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Saturday marked the U-17s’ return to official competition for the first time since the U-17 World Cup in November 2019.