USA, Mexico and Canada will be Concacaf's three representatives at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup India 2022™, which scheduled for 11-30 October.
The Stars and Stripes took top honours at the 2022 Concacaf U-17 Women's Championship in the Dominican Republic with a 2-1 win over Mexico in the final, while Canada saw off Puerto Rico 3-0 in the third-place play-off to secure the final berth.
USA: Serial champions make it three in a row
The US are a dominant force at every level in Concacaf women's football, with U-17 level no exception. This domination was again in evidence in Santo Domingo, as they secured their third consecutive regional title in the category and booked their place at this year’s World Cup. Their star player in qualifying was Melina Rebimbas, who netted both her side’s goals in the semi-final defeat of Canada, before grabbing a 75th minute winner in the final against Mexico to secure a fifth Concacaf Championship at this age level. USA’s path to the final was something of a procession. The group phase saw them rack up 38 unanswered goals, including 20 against Granada in their opening game. The knockout phase proved only marginally more taxing with Curacao brushed aside 11-0 in the round of 16, and Jamaica and Canada consigned to 4-0 and 3-0 defeats in the quarter- and semi-finals respectively.
The toughest test came in the final against fierce rivals Mexico, the only team that managed to breach Victoria Safradin's goal all tournament. The goalkeeper played in four of her side’s games, conceding just a solitary goal en route to picking up the Golden Glove. Unsurprisingly, she was not the only member of Natalia Astrain’s side to claim an individual award, midfielder Riley Jackson being voted Player of the Tournament for a series of imperious displays and contributing two goals along the way.
It should be said, however, that USA have not always enjoyed such hegemony at this level after failing to qualify for two of the six World Cups held to date: Costa Rica 2014 and Trinidad and Tobago 2010. For all their regional success, they are still looking for a maiden U-17 world title. They nearest they came was at the inaugural edition, New Zealand 2008, when they lost 2-1 to Korea DPR in the final. Since then, they have not even reached the semis, a modest record they will be hoping to put right in India.
Mexico: El Tri ready to make amends
The Mexicans made light work of the group stage thanks to 27 unanswered goals, including two 10-0 triumphs. They carried that form into the knockout phase, winning 15-0 against Guyana then 10-0 against their Dominican Republic hosts.
Puerto Rico proved more resilient in the last four but were still beaten 5-0. In reaching the final, Mexico racked up 57 goals, one more than USA, and had not conceded any either. Their front line was ruthlessly effective with four players contributing eight goals or more: Valerie Vargas (10), Tatiana Flores (9), Maribel Flores and Layla Sirdah (8).
Mexico went into the decider against their northern rivals with no little determination, having narrowly lost the previous two finals to them: 2-1 in 2016 and 3-2 in 2018. In 2013, however, they did prevail over the Stars and Stripes on penalties in the semi-final en route to their only regional title to date at this level. A second seemed feasible on Sunday after Maribel Flores levelled against on 66 minutes, only for Rebimbas to grab the winner ten minutes later. Their consolation, of course, was a ticket to India, where they will be making their sixth successive appearance at the world finals. El Tri have only once missed out on an U-17 World Cup (2008) and are ranked number eight in the list of teams with most games played at the finals (20). Their goal now is to go one better than in 2018, when they lost the final 2-1 to Spain, and claim a maiden world title in the category.
Canada: Perfect attendance record maintained
Canada, for their part, had a relatively straightforward passage to the semi-finals, their trickiest moment being a 1-1 draw with Jamaica in the group phase. That crucially allowed them to top the section on goal difference and avoid a clash with USA in the last eight that could have jeopardised their World Cup hopes. The did eventually go down to USA in the semis, setting up a play-off for third place against Puerto Rico, which they won 3-0 with strikes from Anna Hauer, Amanda Allen and Rosa Maalouf. Indeed, the latter emphatically left her mark on the competition, winning the Golden Boot with a record-equalling 12 goals. That feat, achieved also by USA’s Summer Green in 2012, marks Maalouf out as one to watch closely in India. Canada’s presence at this year’s World Cup will have come as no surprise to football watchers, the team being one of only six countries to have graced every edition to date. The Canucks’ best performance was last time out, at Uruguay 2018, when they reached the semi-finals only to lose to Mexico. Could they go one step further this year?
606 USA went 606 minutes without conceding at the 2022 Concacaf U-17 Women's Championship, a sequence finally ended by Mexico’s Maribel Torres in the final. 8.3 USA and Mexico both racked up 58 goals in seven games, an average of 8.3 per game. The pair now share the highest goals-per-game average in the tournament’s history. 1 Natalia Astrain became the first female coach to lead a team to the Concacaf U-17 Women's Championship.
"We worked for six months to achieve this goal. This team is amazing: we put in a lot of effort, not just those who played, but the whole squad. They all contributed to winning this title." Lauren Martinho, USA player "We’re all overjoyed to have qualified. We’ll continue to work hard both on and off the pitch for the incredible opportunity that is playing at a FIFA World Cup." Clare Logan, Canada player