Canada Soccer’s young footballers Jayden Nelson and Olivia Smith have been named 2019 Canadian Youth International Players of the Year. The young duo have been recognised for their excellence at the international level with Canada Soccer’s national youth teams.

The Canadian Youth International Players of the Year award celebrates Canada’s top two youth footballers in recognition of their achievements with Canada Soccer’s Youth National Teams, with an emphasis on their performance at age-category international competitions. In 2019, this included performances from the U-15 to U-20 age categories in FIFA and Concacaf tournaments.

Jayden Nelson helped Canada qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup for the first time in six years after a semi-final finish at the Concacaf Men’s Under-17 Championship. Nelson scored five goals at the Concacaf tournament and earned two Man of the Match honours, including a 4:2 win over Guatemala in which he scored a hat trick. At the FIFA U-17 World Cup, he was Canada’s player of the match in the group finale against New Zealand.

“Jayden Nelson can be proud of the year he has had wearing the Canadian shirt,” said Andrew Olivieri, Canada Soccer’s Men’s EXCEL U-14 to U-17 Program Director. “His talent is unmistakable and we can be excited that there are players like him coming through our system. He’s still a young man trying to establish his career for club and country, but he can be a role model for the young players coming up behind him because he’s that player that can impact a match across all four moments of the game and has the mindset and drive to get better at his craft every day.”

Olivia Smith’s third year in Canada Soccer’s Women’s EXCEL Program was highlighted by an invitation to the Women’s National Team, including her first two international “A” appearances in which she became Canada’s youngest player ever. Alongside her time in the Super Regional EXCEL Centre in Markham, Ontario, Smith earned three call ups to the Women’s U-17 team and scored in back-to-back international matches against Mexico, notably sparking a come-from-behind 2:2 draw on 1 December.

“Olivia Smith was the youngest player to ever win a call up to the Women’s National Team, but what excites me most is her wonderful leadership and character, qualities that make her impact on the field even more powerful,” said Rhian Wilkinson, Canada Soccer’s Women’s U-20 and U-17 National Team Coach. “She is just starting her soccer journey, but her attitude and willingness to avoid the noise around her and just get to work on getting better every day makes me unbelievably excited for her future and the future of soccer in Canada.”

Canada Soccer’s Men’s and Women’s EXCEL programs channel exceptional players into the best soccer environments. From that program, 11 former National Youth Team players still aged 18 to 21 featured at the international “A” level in 2019, including last year’s Youth International Players of the Year Derek Cornelius and Jordyn Huitema. Alongside Smith, Cornelius and Huitema, other young players that featured for Canada in 2019 were Zachary Brault-Guillard, Gabrielle Carle, Jonathan David, Alphonso Davies, Jessie Fleming, Liam Fraser, Julia Grosso, Liam Millar, Jayde Riviere, and Deanne Rose.

Alongside their time with Canada Soccer’s Youth National Teams, Nelson of Brampton, Ontario plays for Toronto FC II while Smith of Whitby, Ontario plays for Canada Soccer’s Ontario Super REX in Markham.

Canada Soccer Moments, Plays and Goals of the Year
Canada Soccer’s annual Moments campaign will be announced on 20 December outlining the Top 10 Moments from 2019 across National Teams and player activity as well as the Canadian Championship.

Canada Soccer’s Plays of the Year fan voting will take place from 23 December – 3 January with the winner announced on 7 January 2020. Fans who vote will be entered for a chance to win one of three CanadaRED Prize Packs including a Grand Prize including a signed Nike National Team jersey.

Canada Soccer will unveil its Top 10 of the ‘10s Decade on 31 December followed by a National Teams Goal of the Year celebration on 1 January.