With the Concacaf W taking place starting on Monday in Monterrey, it’s worth taking a look at the eight teams who will be vying for the four direct spots and two play-in spots for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as well as two spots in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France.
This is the toughest top-to-bottom that Concacaf has been in recent memory, and any team that makes it out of this will have earned their place.
Why they’ll win: Canada are the reigning Olympic gold medalists and have one of the more balanced squads in the tournament. With players in the NWSL, European leagues, and NCAA there’s a good mix of experienced players (Christine Sinclair, Desiree Scott), players in their prime (Kailen Sheridan, Quinn, Kadeisha Buchanan, Nichelle Prince), and young players with huge upsides (Jordyn Huitema, Jayde Riviere, Zoe Burns), this is a strong team that’s built to win now.
Why they won’t: Everyone will be gunning for them, so they’ll need to be at their best every single game. Historically Canada hasn’t been able to be at their best for an entire tournament, and they’ve always kind of resided in the shadow of their southern neighbors. Being the favorites (even if it’s not the clear favorites), is an unfamiliar position, and they’ll need to adapt mentally.
Why they’ll win: Costa Rica have historically been in the second tier of teams behind the big two in Concacaf, and like México, Jamaica, and Haïti, and like those three teams they’ve worked hard to increase their level of play. They breezed through qualifications with a 22-0 aggregate including a 5-0 win against Guatemala. The also spent the past international break playing against Haïti, and iron sharpens iron. They’ve got a bona fide star in Rocky Rodríguez, a star in the making in Priscilla Chinchilla, and a wealth of players from their domestic league, which may be the best in the region behind Liga MX Femenil and the NWSL.
Why they won’t: They might not have done enough to move from the second tier into the first. While the domestic league is relatively strong, it’s nowhere near the NWSL and Liga MX Femenil and there are a lot of players on the roster playing there. They’re also a fairly old squad, with nine players on the roster over 30 years old, with midfielder Shirley Cruz fast approaching 37 years old. They may run out of gas quickly in the heat and altitude of Monterrey, especially if they’re forced to play from behind.
Why they’ll win: Panamá are another side that won their group easily and beat a tough opponent to do so. They boasted a 24-0 aggregate score, including a 2-0 win against El Salvador, who were a dark horse pick to advance out of the qualification stage. They’ve got a good, young nucleus of players including Lineth Cedeño, who at 21 years old is already playing in Italy with Hellas Verona, 19 year old Rosario Vargas who plays in Spain with Valencia, and Hilary Jaen and Gabriela Villagrand in the NCAA system in the US. Marta Cox has also seen her star rise, thanks to being inarguably the best player on a poor León tea in Liga MX Femenil, moving to runners-up Pachuca during the offseason. This is going to be a fun team to watch.
Why they won’t: Like Costa Rica, a majority of their players play in the Panamanin domestic league, which isn’t anywhere near the quality of Liga MX Femenil or NWSL. And with their youth comes the lack of experience in critical games in conference play. There are a lot of unknowns about Panamá, and they’re going to have to rely on a relatively untested squad to come up in critical moments.
Why they’ll win: Perhaps no team had a harder qualification run than T&T, who had to get past Nicaragua and an upstart Guyana side in order just to get here. They’re also lead by a Trinbagonian legend, Kenwyne Jones, who played professionally in England and the national team before retiring in 2017. Jones has a wealth of good, young players at his disposal including Liana Hinds from Hibernian in Scotland, Victoria Swift, who just finished a season with León, and twelve players in the NCAA system in the US.
Why they won’t: For all that Jones brings, he’s still relatively unproven as a manager. Can his experience translate with the young women he’s managing, and if so can it be done under the pressure cooker of the Concacaf W Championship against some of the best teams in the world? It’s not impossible, but it’s definitely a lot to ask of a squad that has so many question marks.
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