Eight players from Ontario are among a group of 18 young soccer pioneers that comprise Canada’s first-ever Under-15 team that will compete in the inaugural Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Association of Football (CONCACAF) junior tournament in the Cayman Islands.
Canada meets Puerto Rico in its opening match tonight starting at 7:30 p.m. The national side opposes Cuba on Saturday and Haiti next Monday at the same time.
Former New Zealand women’s development manager Bev Priestman, who is the national Under-17 coach and director of the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) Under-14 and 17 Women’s EXCEL program, is the team’s coach.
“This is the first development contact with this group of players outside of a wider identification camp,” said Priestman, who has a degree in science and soccer from Liverpool John Moores University. “It’s an opportunity to really assess the players selected for the future.”
Half of the squad will be eligible for three International Soccer Federation (FIFA) youth World Cup events and the squad has been selected on the potential seen in the players as well as keeping with the goal of developing tournament experts that will flourish in international competitions at the senior level.
“Four of the squad featured in the 21 which went to the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in 2014, so experience will be important for such a new group,” said Priestman.
The coaching team also comprises former national defenders Candace Chapman and Melanie Booth, who are the technical assistant and performance analyst, respectively.
The Under-15 group is the first generation that will pedal through a full Women’s EXCEL cycle by the time they exit the national team program that brings together the best players. Operating in six-year cycles across the Under-14 to Under-17 and Under-18 to Under-20 age groups, the program is designed to deliver an aligned talent structure and system that progresses more top players to Canada’s women’s national team.
Sixteen teams are competing in the CONCACAF Under-15 tournament that will be played at four venues.
Host country the Cayman Islands, Curacao, the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands are in Group “A”, the Group “B” contestants are Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Bermuda and Honduras and Group “C” comprises Jamaica, Anguilla, Belize and Costa Rica.
The top two teams from each group will move on to the quarterfinals which will be held on August 13. The semifinals take place two days later with the winners competing in the final and the losers meeting for third place on August 17.