Three tough games for Canada’s Women’s National EXCEL U-14/U-16 age group provided an invaluable learning experience as they look to grow and progress in international football.

Playing at the 2015 U-17 NTC Invitational tournament at the US Soccer national training centre at StubHub Center in Carson, California, a very young Canadian team played three games against top international sides that fielded many older players.

And though there were three losses, Canada showed a great deal of progression in a short amount of time.

“Every game only four or five players of age played, the rest have two youth cycles (either two U-17 or two U-20 cycles ahead of them),” said Head Coach Bev Priestman. “We are investing in the potential of what these players can be and in some ways sacrificing the here and now. We played with a back line of individuals learning a new position and how to be defenders so that our system conveyer belt continues to have players comfortable on the ball all over the pitch.”

The team took their lumps in the first game on 11 February as they lost an 0:8 game to Japan, who are the current world champions at the women’s U-17 level. Next up was the always powerhouse American side on Friday 13 February and it was a close game with USA scoring twice late to pick up a 2:0 win.

Competition wrapped up on Sunday 15 February with a game against Mexico and Canada narrowly lost that one by a 1:2 score.

“The group has grown massively in this tournament and we have only just started their journey,” said Priestman. “The beauty of playing this calibre of teams is that self-awareness of growth areas is heightened and therefore a commitment and self-responsibility to work hard every day is there.”

These players will continue to develop through licensed Women’s Regional EXCEL Centres as they embark on their international careers.

These players will be eligible for and will aim to qualify for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016.