The CONCACAF region hosted the crown jewel of women’s football earlier this year as USA claimed their third FIFA Women’s World Cup™ after a memorable tournament in Canada. 2015, however, still has plenty in store for the competitive region with the CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship kicking off this week in Honduras, where three spots at the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup are up for grabs.
On top of the U-20 competition, regional qualifying for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is set to take place in Texas in February with two tickets to Brazil on offer. Needless to say then, there is plenty to play for in the CONCACAF zone over the coming weeks and months as the region first sets its sights on Papua New Guinea 2016.
San Pedro Sula is the site of the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship, where two venues – Estadio Francisco Morazan and Olimpico Metropolitano – will showcase the zone’s up and coming women’s football talents. The competition kicks off on Thursday with Group A’s four sides – hosts Honduras welcoming Jamaica, and Canada taking on Trinidad and Tobago. Group B follows suit on Friday with Haiti battling Panama, while reigning regional champions USA meet Mexico.
PNG tickets up for grabs
The top two teams from each group will face off in the semi-finals on 11 December, the winners of which will book passage to Papua New Guinea. The tournament’s match for third place takes place two days later to determine the last CONCACAF representative at the U-20 Women’s World Cup, whereas the final will follow shortly afterwards to crown CONCACAF’s U-20 champion.
This competition has been a difficult one for Caribbean teams, with no island nation having ever qualified for the U-20 Women’s World Cup. However, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are looking to put a stop to that this year. Soca Princesses coach Jason Spencer believes this tournament is a chance for Trinidad and Tobago to shine against the region’s traditional powerhouses.
“The ultimate goal is to make it to the World Cup, whether it be the first, the second or the third place,” Spencer said after the tournament’s draw took place. “We are going all the way through.
“The women’s game is growing throughout the world. We are seeing, based on our coming through the CFU (Caribbean Football Union) finals, that the level of football has been raised. I definitely think that some surprises are going to take place.”
USA, Mexico and Costa Rica joined hosts Canada at the 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup as CONCACAF’s representatives. Las Ticas, however, were edged by Panama during Central America’s recent UNCAF qualifying competition, meaning the door is even more open for a newcomer to challenge for a spot at Papua New Guinea 2016.
Ride to Rio on offer
After the dust settles in San Pedro Sula, the focus of women’s football in the region will transition to Texas for the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship. Unlike the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament, the women’s competition features the full senior squads of 12 teams from around the world, with two teams from CONCACAF able to earn the right to play in Rio.
The draw took place for the February tournament last week, and the results delivered a decidedly uneven level in competition between the two groups. Group B features Canada, joined by the likes of Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, which certainly must be viewed as a favourable draw for the bronze medal winners at London 2012.
On the other hand, Group A sees reigning Women’s World Cup champions USA go up against Puerto Rico, Mexico and Costa Rica. With the two finalists only earning berths to Brazil, competition to reach the semi-finals will be tight enough.
No matter how the final results play out and whoever reaches the U-20 Women’s World Cup and Women’s Olympic Football Tournament respectively, the CONCACAF region is in for a treat with a veritable feast of women’s football on offer with plenty of high stakes action to keep even the most casual supporter keyed in on the outcomes.