Wednesday 17 January 2018, 09:57

CONCACAF's best battle for France 2018 berths

  • Trinidad and Tobago set to host CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship

  • Three FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup berths up for grabs

  • USA looking to win fifth straight regional title at this level

Trinidad and Tobago will be the setting for the ninth edition of the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship, which begins on Thursday. Eight teams will compete for the regional title in this age group, as well as three qualifying berths for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup France 2018.

The tournament in brief:

  • When: 18-28 January

  • Where: Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, Trinidad and Tobago

  • Who: Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Costa Rica, Canada (Group A); USA, Nicaragua, Mexico, Jamaica (Group B)

  • What’s at stake: Three places at the U-20 Women’s World Cup in France

  • How: After round-robin action in the two groups of four, the top two teams from each group will advance to the semi-finals. The winners of both last-four duels will reach the tournament final and qualify for France 2018. The semi-finals losers will contest the competition’s third-place match, with the winner claiming CONCACAF’s final qualifying berth for this year’s U-20 Women’s World Cup.

The favourites Having dominated previous editions of this tournament, much will be expected from North American powerhouses Canada and USA at Trinidad and Tobago 2018.

Drawn in Group A, the Canadians will look to overcome the competition hosts, Caribbean qualifiers Haiti, and Costa Rica. Led by coach Beverly Priestmen (pictured), Canada’s squad includes a creditable amount of experience at youth and senior international level.

Defending champions USA also boast a group with impressive pedigree in youth football, with Jitka Klimkova’s side set to battle Nicaragua, Jamaica, and Mexico in Group B. Having qualified for six straight U-20 Women’s World Cup finals, the Mexicans will also expect to be among the tournament’s last four.

Players to watch

Still only 16 years of age, Canada’s Jordyn Huitema made huge strides in 2017, becoming the first player - male or female - to score for Canada’s U-17, U-20, and senior national teams in the same year. In 17-year-old forward Sophia Smith, USA boast an emerging talent who was recently named US Soccer Young Female Player of the Year for 2017.

Mexico’s Jacqueline Ovalle is one of several players travelling to Trinidad and Tobago with experience of playing in a FIFA youth competition, having scored two goals at the 2016 U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan. Costa Rica, meanwhile, will hope striker Catalina Estrada can find the back of the net, as she did in recent friendly action for the Central Americans.

Having made her youth international debut as a 12-year-old back in 2014, Jody Brown is determined to lead Jamaica to a first-ever Women’s World Cup qualification berth at any level.

The stat 5 – The number of CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship titles USA have won since the competition’s inaugural edition in 2002 (2006, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015). North American rivals Canada are the only other team to be crowned CONCACAF champions at this level, having taken home the trophy in 2004 and 2008.

What they said “Two years ago, we didn’t even qualify for the , while four years ago, we qualified for the World Cup. Now, we are clear that we have come to compete and qualify for a World Cup.” Costa Rica coach Amelia Valverde

“I know our best is fourth, which was all the way back in 2006, but we have the quality in our team to finish in the top three. I am sure we can make a good impression and shine.” Jamaica forward Jody Brown

Where to watch Fans can watch all of the matches on CONCACAF's official Facebook page.