Playing at home could be a blessing or curse.
Youth soccer striker, Nichelle Prince, is hoping it’s the former when Canada hosts the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) Under-20 Women’s World Cup from August 5-24.
The national team’s first two matches against Ghana and Finland on August 5 and 8, respectively, will be at BMO Field and family and friends from across Canada and the United States will be there to watch Prince and the rest of the Canadians compete for the global championship.
Canada’s final first-round match is against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in Montreal on August 12.
“I am really excited and I can’t wait for the tournament to start,” said Prince, who enjoyed a short break at home before rejoining the national squad in Vancouver last Tuesday for a training camp that ends on July 10. “I have a lot of family and friends who have never seen me play in a big tournament such as this and they are looking forward to coming out and cheering for me and my teammates.”
Following the camp, the squad will head to Mexico for two warm-up matches before returning to Canada in late July.
Earlier this month, the Canadians hosted Korea Republic in two friendlies in Burnaby. The first ended in a 2-2 draw while Prince scored in a 2-1 loss in the last game.
“I am injury-free and feeling good as our preparation continues,” said Prince. “Whether I start or how much I play depends on the coach, but it’s a great honour to wear the Canadian jersey.”
This is the second time Canada is hosting the tournament. The national side reached the final of the inaugural tournament in Canada in 2002. Only once in the tournament’s history has a host country lifted the championship trophy. Germany achieved the feat four years ago.
A member of the national Under-17 team that reached the final of the Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Associations of Soccer (CONCACAF) World Cup qualifier two years ago, Prince made her national senior team debut in January 2013 in the Four Nations women’s tournament in China. She came off the bench to score the team’s only goal against Korea Republic.
As a freshman last season at Ohio State University, she scored 12 goals in 19 games for her team that finished with 10 wins, seven losses and three draws.
Prince, who ranks third on the Ohio State single-season goals and points lists with 12 and 30 respectively, was one of a dozen freshmen on the roster.
“We didn’t do as well as we expected, but we should be much better this season,” said Prince, who tallied hat tricks against Northeastern and Northwestern and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times.
The season starts with a scrimmage against Wake Forest on August 16.
Prince was a key member of Pickering High School’s track and field championship teams before committing to soccer nearly three years ago.
Her younger sister Kendra, who excelled in field hockey and track and field as a prep, joins Oakland University program this year as a defender while older sibling Christine – a forward – completed her senior season last year at the University of Montevallo Falcons.