The Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands have edged closer to FIFA recognition after being included in the qualifiers for the 2014 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup.
The islands, which are a member of the East Asian Football Federation and an associate member of the AFC, are one of 20 teams included in the qualifiers.
In their debut in the competition, the Northern Mariana team will face Bangaldesh, Nepal and Palestine in Group D qualifiers next year.
The Cup is a challenge competition for smaller Asian nations. The top two sides from each group plus the best two second-placed teams qualify for the finals in the Maldives. The winner of the competition will qualify for the finals of the 2015 Asian Cup, which will be staged in Australia.
Northern Mariana are unlikely to qualify but the qualifiers offer a chance for vital experience for a senior side that has so far been restricted to EAFF qualifiers and ad hoc friendlies against sides like neighbours Guam.