USA won their third consecutive CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship, earning themselves a spot at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016 alongside fellow heavyweights Mexico and Canada, while Haiti just missed out on reaching the global finals for the first time after an inspired performance.
El Tri were the first team to book their ticket to Jordan 2016 with a 3-0 semi-final victory over Haiti, while the Stars and Stripes quickly followed suit with a 5-0 win against their neighbours to the north. Canada rebounded in the third place match, however, beating Haiti 4-2, denying the Caribbean nation their first appearance at a FIFA women's competition.
Shek Borkowski can be proud of his Haiti team, though, as their fourth place finish marks their highest achievement at the U-17 level to date. Additionally, as Group A winners, Haiti posted the competition’s best goal difference in the group stage play, beating Canada, Guatemala and tournament hosts Grenada in an unbeaten run up to the semi-finals. And with seven strikes to her name, midfielder Nerilia Mondesir won the golden boot and was named to the tournament’s Best XI, indicating a promising future ahead for the Haitians.
The United States faced little competition en route to the final, seeing off Jamaica, Mexico and Costa Rica along the way, though their two battles with El Tri were arguably the two best games of the competition. A 1-0 group stage victory for the Stars and Stripes secured by the services of golden ball winner Ashley Sanchez, who similarly impressed at U-20 qualifying late last year, was followed up by a hard-fought 2-1 win in the final.
USA opened the scoring, once again through Sanchez, only for Mexico to equalise in the 69th minute to set up a tense finish. Four minutes from time, Civana Kuhlmann timed her run to perfection to volley home Sophia Smith’s well-timed cross.
Tenacious El Tri
Mexico, for their part, should be considered a threat at Jordan 2016, with starlets Kimberly Rodriguez and Jacqueline Ovalle featuring prominently for Christopher Cuellar’s side, both earning Best XI honours for their efforts. There were numerous occasions where El Tri nearly went ahead in the final, but USA goalkeeper and golden glove winner Laurel Ivory stymied their attempts with aplomb.
Despite their group stage defeat to Haiti, Canada were equally impressive en route to their third place finish, that is until they ran into a relentless USA side in the semi-finals. After only conceding two goals against Haiti in group stage play, thanks largely in part to Best XI left back Julia Grosso, Canada were outmatched in their 5-0 defeat to the Americans. But they recovered well and adjusted their tactics in a rematch with Le Rouge et Bleue, scoring four second-half goals to overpower the islanders.
In a case of déjà vu from the U-20 qualifiers in December, CONCACAF will see their three largest Member Associations represent the region not only at Papua New Guinea in November this year, but also at Jordan 2016 coming up in September and October. Though USA, Canada and Mexico now turn their attention to global glory, Haiti and even hosts Grenada, despite their record of three defeats in the tournament, can look ahead to the future with confidence, knowing their continued development will only lead to brighter days ahead.