PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - Opportunity knocks for Sint Maarten this fall when they begin their 2019/20 CONCACAF Nations League Qualifying campaign.
The upcoming four matches versus Haiti, Bermuda, Dominica and Saint Martin promise to offer the Sint Maarten players an international stage to show their wares.
Among those looking to impress is DF Djai Essed, a three-time national team-capped player who says that Sint Maarten will be craving the competition on display in the CNL.
"These four matches will be big for Sint Maarten because it puts us on the map," said Essed in an exclusive interview with CONCACAF.
"The more exposure we get, the better it is for us. We have talent here, we just don't have the outlets to get them where they need to be to develop more, so that's a big aspect in this competition: to show that we have young players that can perform at a high level," added Essed.
The opener at Haiti in September will be Sint Maarten's first official match since March 2016 when they fell 5-0 to Grenada and 2-1 to the U.S. Virgin Islands in qualifying for the 2017 Caribbean Cup.
On a personal level, Essed is looking forward to wearing the Sint Maarten shirt once again.
"I'm most looking forward to being back on the field with the Sint Maarten flag on my chest because it is really an honor and a good feeling to play for Sint Maarten. In the Caribbean Cup Qualifiers against Grenada and the U.S. Virgin Islands we didn't play together before, so for what we did show, I thought we did quite well," said Essed.
Yet the match that has likely been circled by everyone in Sint Maarten is the March 2019 affair against Saint Martin, in what will be a hotly contested 90 minutes between the French and Dutch sides of the Caribbean island.
"It will be for bragging rights. It's something to look forward to because we'll have a packed stadium. This will be an event that goes down in history on Sint Maarten because of the atmosphere that will be there. It's the first time that the two countries are playing against each other on an international stage, so that's really something big to look forward to," said Essed.
The Flamed United man was also not afraid to offer up a prediction for the historic match.
"I think the Dutch side, Sint Maarten, has it for now," concluded Essed.