Two traditional regional powerhouses of women’s football, USA and Canada, qualified with relative ease for the 2016 Women's Olympic Football Tournament in Rio de Janeiro after finishing first and second respectively at the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Texas.
A fast-paced competition with 15 games played in a 12-day span, Dallas and Houston played host to the regional tournament, which hosts USA won for a fourth consecutive occasion. The Stars and Stripes' domination preserved their perfect qualification record, seeing the United States into the Olympics just as they have done since the women's tournament began in 1996.
Canada head to Rio for their third appearance at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, looking to improve upon their impressive bronze medal earned at London 2012. Meanwhile, Mexico made an early exit after two narrow losses in the group stage, including a closely fought 2-1 defeat to Costa Rica, which was arguably the most exciting match of the competition.
The Central Americans ultimately lost out in the semi-finals alongside Trinidad and Tobago, and minnows Guyana made a brave effort at their inaugural qualifying tournament appearance, though they were ultimately overpowered by the region’s more experienced sides. FIFA.com rounds up all the action from Texas during the CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers here.
USA dominant, Canada close behind
While the qualifying competition was relatively straightforward once everything was said and done, there were some notable ups and downs along the way, particularly in the group stage where the two sections of four teams were decidedly lopsided. Group A featured three of the region’s four strongest sides, with USA, Costa Rica and Mexico locked in a battle for the top two places. Puerto Rico mostly made up the numbers, conceding 25 goals and scoring none in their three group stage losses.
Jill Ellis’ side started brightly with a 5-0 win over Las Ticas, setting the bar high early in the tournament. That result was followed by a narrow 1-0 win over El Tri, which was the first time USA had ever won a match by such a narrow margin in their Olympic qualifying history.
The Americans ended the group stage with a resounding 10-0 win against Puerto Rico where Crystal Dunn was responsible for half of the Stars and Stripes goals. USA sealed their spot at Rio 2016 with another comfortable victory, seeing off Trinidad and Tobago in the semi-finals, this time Alex Morgan leading the way with a hat-trick.
Canada’s ticket to Brazil was punched with similar ease as veteran forward Christine Sinclair scored her way into the history books once more. During the group stage, the Burnaby, British Columbia native surpassed Mia Hamm’s tally of 158 goals to take second in the all-time scoring charts behind Abby Wambach’s 184 strikes. After an opening 5-0 win over Guyana, John Herdman’s squad beat Trinidad and Tobago 6-0, Sinclair scoring her record 159th goal in the process.
Canada then put up a 10-0 result of their own in the final group stage game against Guatemala, and Sinclair scored twice in a 3-1 semi-final victory against Costa Rica to move to 161 goals all-time, 23 shy of matching the record owned by the recently retired Wambach.
The Americans proved to be too strong in the final, however, and after a goalless first half, Lindsey Horan and Tobin Heath scored twice in eight minutes to hand the hosts the trophy.
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) February 22, 2016
— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) February 20, 2016
Minutes since USA goalkeeper Hope Solo and her colleagues have conceded in CONCACAF Women’s Olympic qualifying. The Americans scored 23 goals and kept a clean sheet in their five matches in this edition of the tournament. The Stars and Stripes net last bulged during the 2008 competition, when Canada’s Melissa Tancredi scored in extra-time of the tournament’s final.
What they said
"We obviously know that we aren't favourites in CONCACAF to win. But we have earned a respect and a spot to be considered in the conversation when you're talking about women's soccer in CONCACAF."
Costa Rica coach Amelia Valverde
The Stars and Stripes swept the honours at the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Additionally, the two qualified teams made up the competition's entire Best XI squad with the hosts earning eight spots and Canada taking three.
Morgan Brian (USA)
Crystal Dunn (USA)
Hope Solo (USA)
Fair Play Award