TORONTO — Olympians Deanne Rose and Gabrielle Carle will lead Canada next month at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea.
The Canadians are in a challenging group with Japan, Spain and Nigeria at the 16-team tournament which runs Nov. 13 to Dec. 3.
The 17-year-old Rose scored twice during the 2016 Rio Games, becoming the youngest goal scorer in Olympic women’s football history. The young forward captained the Canadian team that went 1-1-1, exiting after the first round, at the U-17 World Cup in Jordan that ended earlier this month.
Coach Danny Worthington’s 21-woman Canadian squad also includes Sura Yekka and Marie Levasseur, who like Rose and Carle have been capped at the senior level. It includes six other members of the U-17 team from Jordan.
For some countries, the U-20 tournament is their World Cup. But for Worthington and national team coach John Herdman, the under-20 program is a pipeline to the senior side.
"It’s about identification, assessment and giving youth players an opportunity to gain tournament expertise," Worthington said in an interview. "That’s what we’re trying to achieve here."
That explains the absence of midfielder Jessie Fleming. The 18-year-old freshman at UCLA has become a fixture on the senior team so the Canadian Soccer Association has left her off the U-20 roster to give another player a chance to develop.
Worthington points to midfielder Sarah Stratigakis, who at 17 already has "nearly 26 projects," seven tournaments and some 2,000 minutes at youth level under her belt already.
The Canadian women were runner-up to the U.S. in the CONCACAF qualifying championship in late 2015 in Honduras, losing 1-0 in the final. Canada won all three of its pool games, outscoring the opposition 11-0 before beating Mexico 5-4 on penalties in the semifinal.
Defender Bianca St-Georges and Stratigakis were named to the CONCACAF tournament’s Best XI.
Canada’s roster there included three 15-year-olds, three 16-year-olds and four 17-year-olds.
The average age of the Canadian squad for Papua New Guinea squad is 18.1.
In addition to heat, the Canadian women will face tough opposition in Papua New Guinea.
Japan won the 2014 U-17 World Cup in Costa Rica and was runner-up earlier this month at the 2016 U-17 championship in Jordan. Spain was the U-17 runner-up two years ago and finished third this year. Nigeria made the quarter-finals of the 2014 U-17 championship and was second in the 2014 U-20 tournament.
For Worthington, the group represents three distinct tests for his young charges.
"It’s not necessarily just about just playing football. It’s the holistic development of these players," he said.
Papua New Guinea marks the seventh time Canada has qualified for the U-20 World Cup, missing out only once in 2010.
Canada hosted the 2014 U-20 tournament with the home side advancing to the quarter-finals before losing 2-0 to eventual winner Germany. It also reached the quarters in 2004.
The Canadians failed to reach the knockout rounds in the 2006, 2008 and 2012 tournaments. In 2002, host Canada made it all the way to the final of the inaugural event, then for under-19s, only to lose 1-0 to the U.S. after extra time.
Worthington took his team to Mexico in May for a 10-camp and two international friendlies against Mexico in Mexico City — a 0-0 draw and 2-0 loss.
His team will prepare for the tournament at a Nov. 1-9 camp in Australia, with a closed-door match against France on Nov. 8, before heading to Papua New Guinea.
Canada U-20 Roster
Goalkeepers: Rylee Foster, 18, West Virginia University, Cambridge, Ont.; Patricia Koutoulas, 19, Miami University, Toronto; Lysianne Proulx, 17, AS Varennes & Quebec Soccer REX, Boucherville, Que.
Defenders: Victoria Pickett, 20, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Barrie, Ont.; Bianca St-Georges, 18, West Virginia University, St-Charles-Borommee, Que.; Mika Richards, 19, York University, Brampton, Ont.; Sura Yekka, 19, University of Michigan, Mississauga, Ont., Marike St-Pierre Mousset, 19, Ohio State University, Montreal, Que.; Emma Regan, 16, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite BC Soccer Rex, Burnaby, B.C.; Hannah Taylor, 17, Eastside FC, Edmonds, Wash.
Midfielders: Ashley Moreira, 20, University of Pittsburgh, Maple, Ont.; Sarah Taylor, 20, Boise State University, South Shore, N.S.; Sarah Feola, 18, University of Louisville, MontrEal; Sarah Stratigakis, 17, Aurora United FC, Woodbridge, Ont.; Anyssa Ibrahim, 17, AS Varennes & Quebec Soccer REX, Repentigny, Que.; Vital Kats, 16, Scarborough GS United, Toronto.
Forwards: Alex Lamontagne, 20, Syracuse University, Whitby, Ont.; Marie Levasseur, 19, University of Memphis, Stoneham, Que.; Gabrielle Carle, 18, Dynamo Quebec, Levis, Que.; Deanne Rose, 17, Scarborough GS United, Alliston, Ont.; Lauren Raimondo, 17, Unionville-Milliken SC, Niagara Falls, Ont.