After outscoring the opposition 40-1 in four games at a qualifying tournament in April, Canada opens play Wednesday against Jamaica at the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship in the Dominican Republic.
The eight competing teams are fighting for CONCACAF's three berths at next year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
Canada made it to the CONCACAF tournament last month by handily winning its qualifying group in the Dominican Republic. The Canadians defeated Martinique 15-0, St. Vincent and the Grenadines 12-0 and Cuba 4-0 before thumping previously unbeaten El Salvador 9-1.
The 32 teams at the qualifying event were split into six pools with the group winners joining the pre-qualified U.S. and Mexico at the final tournament.
"We were surprised by the format as well," said Canada coach Cindy Tye, referencing the first qualifying event. "After having gone through it, we did get to spend 2 1/2 weeks together. Although not the competition that would be ideal, the time together was very important for us in preparation of this coming qualifier."
Tye has stuck with the same group of players, which means she has a lot of weapons in her arsenal.
Forwards Olivia Smith (two caps) and Amanda Allen (one) have already played for the Canadian senior side. Forward Annabelle Chukwu and defender Ella Ottey were called into camp last year but have yet to make their senior debut.
Allen signed with the Orlando Pride on April 3, becoming the Pride’s youngest-ever signing. She then became the NWSL team's youngest rookie, making her first NWSL appearance on May 6 against Racing Louisville at the age of 18 years two months 15 days.
Other forwards on the roster are Rosa Maalouf, Jaime Perrault and Nyah Rose.
"We're really excited about this group," said Tye. "Obviously there's some offensive punch with Amanda Allen, Olivia Smith. There's some big names in there and some kids performing at a very high level now."
Canada faces a condensed schedule, playing Jamaica on Wednesday, Panama on Friday and the defending champion U.S. on Sunday.
Group B is made up of Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and the host Dominican Republic.
The top two from each group advance to the knockout stage with the two finalists and the third-place match winner qualifying for the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
The U.S. defeated Mexico 2-0 in the 2022 final, earning its seven CONCACAF U-20 title.
Canada has qualified for eight of the 10 previous FIFA U-20 Women's World Cups, finishing runner-up to the U.S. in 2002 when Canada hosted the event.
It marks Canada's 10th trip to the CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship. Canada, whose tournament record is 35-9-4, won the competition in 2004 and 2008, was runner-up in 2006, 2012 and 2015, and finished third in 2022.
Canada Soccer says of the 162 players that represented Canada at those previous editions, 79 have played for the senior squad.
Jamaica is making its 12th appearance at the CONCACAF championship while Panama is making its seventh trip. Neither country has ever qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Goalkeepers: Faith Fenwick, NDC-CDN Ontario; Noelle Henning, NDC-CDN Ontario; Coralie Lallier, University of Alabama.
Defenders: Mya Archibald, Vancouver Whitecaps/NDC-CDN British Columbia; Jadea Collin, NDC Ontario; Clare Logan, Vancouver Whitecaps/NDC-CDN British Columbia; Zoe Markesini, NDC-CDN Ontario; Sophie Murdock, Mountain View Los Altos SC; Ella Ottey, NDC-CDN Ontario; Renee Watson, NDC-CDN Ontario.
Midfielders: Jeneva Hernandez Gray, Vancouver Whitecaps/NDC-CDN British Columbia; Thaea Mouratidis, Providence College; Kayla Briggs, NDC-CDN Ontario; Florianne Jourde, NDC-CDN Quebec; Ella McBride, Providence College.
Forwards: Olivia Smith, Penn State; Amanda Allen, Orlando Pride (NWSL); Annabelle Chukwu, NDC-CDN Ontario; Rosa Maalouf; NDC-CDN Ontario; Jaime Perrault, Vancouver Whitecaps/NDC-CDN British Columbia; Nyah Rose, NDC-CDN Ontario.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 23, 2023
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press