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Canada to Host CONCACAF Qualifying for U-19 World Championship

CHICAGO (Nov. 4, 2003) – The path for the U.S. Under-19 Women’s National Team to the 2004 FIFA U-19 World Championship will go through Canada, site of its FIFA Under-19 World Championship on Sept. 1, 2002, when the USA downed the hosts 1-0 in the title game on a “golden goal” from Lindsay Tarpley.  This time, the USA will be attempting to qualify for a world championship during the CONCACAF U-19 Women’s Qualifying Tournament that will be held in Ottawa and Montreal, Canada, from May 28-June 6, 2004. The second FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship will be held in Thailand from November 10-27, 2004.

Canada, which was the sole bidder for the competition, was confirmed today as the host of the final round of the Women's Under-19 qualifying tournament at the CONCACAF Executive Committee Meeting in Miami, Florida. Canada held a spectacular first FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship, an event that captured the fancy of the country as the young Maple Leafs advanced to the title game, where 47,784 watched a dramatic victory by the USA at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

The qualifying tournament will bring together the eight best U-19 women's teams from across the North, Central America and Caribbean region to participate in the event that the Canada Soccer Association plans to host at both Ottawa’s Frank Clair Stadium and Montreal’s McGill University Stadium, pending the CONCACAF Venue Inspection later this month.  As of now, 22 National Associations have confirmed their participation in the CONCACAF U-19 qualifying rounds, with the preliminary zonal competitions scheduled to be played from January 15 through March 31, 2004. As in 2002, the USA will likely get a bye through to the final competition.

“It’s incredibly exciting to have the sites and dates for the qualifying,” said U.S. head coach Tracey Leone.  “The players have been waiting on pins and needles to hear this news. Canada did an exceptional job with the last U-19 World Championship and we are thrilled to be going back. We couldn’t be more excited about continuing our journey from this point towards qualification. Our only goal right now is to qualify for the world championship.”

Leone, who guided the USA to the world championship, is currently molding her next team in preparation for qualifying and recently completed a training camp for only high school-aged players at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, Calif.

She will hold her next training camp, which will include college players, in late December. Five players from the USA’s 2002 World Championship Team are still age-eligible for the 2004 competition that has a cut-off of players born after January 1, 1985, three of whom were starters at the last world championship.  Those players are forward Heather O’Reilly, currently a freshman at UNC, who has scored 18 goals in 18 U-19 internationals, defender Rachel Buehler, currently a freshman at Stanford who tore her ACL early in the championship game, and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, currently a high school senior and the youngest member of the 2002 team who played spectacularly in the final as a 16-year-old. Forward Angie Woznuk, a freshman at Portland, who came off the bench in the championship game, and forward Kerri Hanks, a high school senior, are also age-eligible.

Other future stars that are emerging and may lead the USA into qualifying are a trio of solid defenders in co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn, a freshman at Virgina, the consistent Jen Buczkowski, a freshman at Notre Dame and the athletic and versatile Stephanie Lopez, a freshman at Portland.  On the attacking end, the USA has some talented goal scorers in speedy forward Cheree Gray, a high school senior who was a member of the USA’s 2003 U-21 Nordic Cup champions, slick forward Megan Rapinoe, a high school senior with a nose for the goal and UCLA freshman forward Bristyn Davis, also a member of the USA’s 2003 U-21 Nordic Cup champs who currently has six goals for Bruins.

The USA foreshadowed its dominating performance in Canada with an equally impressive showing at the 2002 CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament played in Trinidad & Tobago.  The USA outscored three opponents 34-1 and became fan favorites on the tiny island of Tobago that sits just above the northern coast of South America.  The 2002 U-19 team featured six players who have seen time with the full national team.  In addition to Tarpley and O’Reilly, forward Kelly Wilson (Texas) and midfielders Lori Chalupny (UNC), Jill Oakes (UCLA) and Leslie Osborne (Santa Clara), all gained valuable experience at the U-19 level that will be vitally important as they attempt to make the jump to the next level.