The Canadian senior women’s national team recently made headlines when it qualified for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
Now, it’s the Canadian youth team’s turn to take in the spotlight.
Canada will attempt to qualify for the 2020 FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup when it competes in the upcoming Concacaf U-20 Women’s Championship.
The Concacaf qualifiers run from Feb. 22 to March 8 in the Dominican Republic, with two World Cup berths up for grabs.
Here’s what you need to know about the competition as Canada attempts to qualify for the World Cup.
PROGRAMMING ALERT: Watch all of Canada’s games (plus the semifinals and THE final) at the Concacaf U-20 Women’s Championship live on OneSoccer. To subscribe to OneSoccer, CLICK HERE.
How does the tournament work?
This year’s U-20 Concacaf tournament features a new format, with 20 teams now involved instead of the previous eight. In order to qualify for the World Cup — which will be co-hosted by Panama and Costa Rica in August — Canada needs to advance through the knockout stages and win a semifinal match.
Only the two finalists of this Concacaf competition qualify for the World Cup, so the margin of error is slim.
Canada has been drawn into Group E, and will play Jamaica, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
The top three teams in each of the four round-robin groups advance to a 16-team knockout stage.
Should Canada win its group, its first-round opponent will be Bermuda, one of four nations who enter directly into the round of 16 – the others are Saint Lucia, Grenada, and Barbados.
One potential challenge for Canada could be that the current bracket seems to put them in line for a semifinal with the United States, which would be a do-or-die matchup for World Cup qualification. Should Canada and U.S. win their groups and their first two knockout matches, they’ll meet in the semis.
Canada plays El Salvador on Feb. 22 in its group opener, before squaring off against Guatemala (Feb. 24) and Jamaica (Feb. 26).
Canada enters the tournament as the third-ranked U-20 women’s team in Concacaf, behind the U.S. and Mexico (winners of the 2018 competition).
All tournament games will take place in San Cristobal and Santo Domingo.
What is the makeup of this Canadian roster?
This Canadian U-20 squad features players born in 2000 or later, and all of them have spent time playing in Canada Soccer’s Women’s EXCEL Program at the youth level.
Of the 20 players on the roster, 17 have played for Canada in previous Concacaf or FIFA youth tournaments.
Here is the full roster list:
- Goalkeepers: Anna Karpenko (Super REX Ontario), Kayza Massey (West Virginia University)
- Defenders: Jade Rose (Super REX Ontario), Joanna Verzosa-Dolezal (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite Super REX), Emma Regan (University of Texas at Austin), Samantha Chang (University of South Carolina), Molly Quarry (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite Super REX),
- Midfielders: Marika Guay (Santa Clara University), Mya Jones (University of Memphis), Maya Ladhani (Super REX Ontario), Caitlin Shaw (University of Oregon), Lara Kazandjian (University of Memphis), Sonia Walk (Super REX Ontario), Wayny Balata (CS Lakeshore), Jazmine Wilkinson (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite Super)
- Forwards: Caleigh Boeckx (Rice University), Léonie Portelance (AS Varennes), Tanya Boychuk (FC Edmonton REX), Kaila Novak (UCLA), Andersen Williams (Texas A & M University)
Who is Canada’s player to watch at this tournament?
Defender Emma Regan, a 20-year-old native of Burnaby, B.C., has some experience with Canada’s senior team – she earned her first cap versus Cuba in a Concacaf World Cup qualifier in October 2018.
Fellow defender Jade Rose, a 17-year-old from Markham, Ont., hasn’t been capped but she has been called up by senior team coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller.
Both have already played at the under-17 level before graduating to under-20 team.
Who is Canada’s coach?
The woman in charge of Canada’s U-20 side is Rhian Wilkinson, a former standout with Canada’s senior team.
Wilkinson, 37, scored seven goals and tallied 23 assists in 181 appearances (fourth all-time in team history) between 2003 and 2017. She helped the Reds win bronze medals at the 2012 London Olympics and in 2016 at the Rio Games, and participated in four FIFA Women’s World Cups.
Wilkinson admitted that it will be “challenging under the new format” for Canada to qualify for the World Cup, especially with so many games in such a short period of time.
“Playing up to seven matches across 16 days under the new format will test us both physically and mentally, but that is the point of the tournament. That pressure will help develop our players as they continue to progress towards the women’s national team,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson also coaches Canada’s U-17 team, and led the side to a fourth-place finish at the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay.
Wilkinson will lead Canada at the Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championship scheduled for May and April in Mexico. Canada will attempt to become one of three Concacaf countries to qualify for the 2020 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup that will be staged India in November.
What is Canada’s U-20 World Cup record like?
Canada has participated in seven of the nine FIFA U-20 World Cups to date.
It’s best showing was in 2002, when the tournament was known as the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup. That competition was staged in Canada, and saw the Canadians lose to the United States in extra time in the final before 47, 784 fans at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.
Canada also reached the quarter-finals in 2004 and 2014.
It failed to qualify in 2018, losing to Mexico in the semifinals of the Concacaf qualifiers via penalty shootout, and the suffered a 1-0 loss to Haiti in third-place game.