Canada Soccer’s development pathway appears secure as the U-20 Women’s National Team wrapped up the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016. Having chosen to field a young team, with an average starting lineup age of 17.3, Canada has tested its talent, and is buoyed by the prospects coming through the Excel System.
While Canada ended its tournament with a 5-0 final group match loss to Japan, the team boasted some impressive stats that suggest the future is bright indeed. Six of the starting lineup, including the goalkeeper, featured for Canada’s U-17 team at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, and seven members of the squad can return for the next cycle in 2018. Emma Regan, a starting fullback in all three of Canada’s matches, is eligible to return to this tournament twice more.
“Our goal going into Papua New Guinea was to test our players against strong teams, and we got that playing against Spain, Nigeria and Japan; and to ensure key players in our EXCEL System that are tracking towards our National Women’s Team gained experience against various styles of international football,” said Daniel Worthington, Canada Soccer U-20 Women’s Coach and Women’s U-23 EXCEL Program Director. “Playing three confederation champions, in the heat of Papua New Guinea, tested these players and gave us an opportunity to assess how they responded to various conditions and styles of play.”
The timing of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016 comes at an ideal time for Canada as the Women’s National Team enters into a new four-year cycle, which will see some of the fresh faces of the U-20 National Team establish themselves within the senior squad, but also come back for another FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in two years.
“The current player funnel for the Women’s National Team is very solid, and we are excited to see these players continue to develop through our Excel System,” said Worthington. “Players like Carle, Rose, and Stratigakis, can come back to this tournament again in two years, and our young full-back Emma Regan can return twice! This bodes well for the National Women’s Team in the future as our other youth players, will be well-developed internationals before they reach the senior ranks.”
Canada Soccer’s Excel System, designed by Women’s Excel Programme Director and Women’s National Team Head Coach John Herdman, has already produced eight Women’s National Team players, and Olympic bronze medalists, in Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, Jessie Fleming, Rebecca Quinn, Janine Beckie, Shelina Zadorsky, Deanne Rose, and Gabrielle Carle, three of whom are still eligible for youth competition.
“Canada Soccer’s Excel philosophy is not geared towards only winning tournaments, but rather towards developing individual players to meet the future needs of Canada’s Women’s National Team,” said Herdman. “The program has proven successful in developing many of our current bronze medalists, and we see great things coming from the next group. It’s an approach that develops players by design to meet future positional openings as the team senior team evolves.”
Over the last four years the quality of experience for young, talented, Canadian female players has improved, inspiring them to reach greater heights, while at the same time providing them with the tools to meet the demands and rigors of the ever improving international women’s game. Attracting and helping to retain more talented players to soccer, the Excel Program is widening and strengthening the talent base in Canada and creating more opportunities for Canada to excel in future Olympics and FIFA Women’s World Cups.
Canada Soccer is looking forward to an exciting four-year period as Canada’s Women’s National Team seeks to rise from fourth place to first in FIFA’s World Rankings. The exceptional, yet attainable, goal was set for Canada by Herdman after Canada repeated its bronze medal finish at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
“The Excel System is key to our goal of putting Canada on top of the podium, not just on it,” said Herdman. “Work already completed has provided the Women’s National Team with a constant flow of young players, in all positions, with the requisite physical, technical, mental and emotional qualities required to achieve consistent podium performances, and it’s on this foundation that we are looking to further unite and strengthen the talent pathways, programs and systems to propel elite women’s soccer towards the number one goal.”
Canada Soccer Women’s National EXCEL Program, presented by Bell, brings together the best with the best at the national youth level. Operating across the U-14 to U-17 and U-18 to U-23 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.