The U.S. Women’s National Team opens the 2021 SheBelieves Cup, presented by Visa, on the evening of Feb. 18 with a clash against Canada at 7 p.m. ET at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The regional rivals will be meeting for the 61st time overall in a series that dates back to 1986 when the USWNT was in only its second year in existence.
Here are Five Things to Know as Canada prepares to make its first appearance at the SheBelieves Cup.
CANADA COMES TO THE SUNSHINE STATE
Canada’s roster for the SheBelieves Cup features eight players currently playing their club soccer in Europe and 13 who compete domestically in the United States, as have the majority of Canadian players over the years. Eight players are currently in the NWSL, many of whom are or have been teammates with several U.S. players, and five play for U.S. college programs, including Gabby Carle who is a teammate of Jaelin Howell’s at Florida State.
Canada Women’s National Team Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Stephanie Labbé (FC Rosengård, SWE), 12-Rylee Foster (Liverpool FC, ENG), 18-Kailen Sheridan (Sky Blue FC, USA)
DEFENDERS (9): 2-Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash, USA), 3-Jade Rose (Unionville Milliken SC), 4-Shelina Zadorsky (Tottenham Hotspur, ENG), 5-Quinn (OL Reign, USA), 14-Gabrielle Carle (Florida State Univ., USA), 20-Jayde Riviere (Univ. of Michigan, USA), 21-Jordyn Listro (Orlando Pride, USA), 22-Lindsay Agnew (NC Courage, USA), 23-Vanessa Gilles (FC Girondins de Bordeaux, FRA)
MIDFIELDERS (6): 7-Julia Grosso (Univ. of Texas, USA), 8-Samantha Chang (Univ. of South Carolina, USA), 10-Sarah Stratigakis (Oakville Blue Devils FC), 11-Desiree Scott (Kansas City NWSL, USA), 13-Sophie Schmidt (Houston Dash, USA), 17-Jessie Fleming (Chelsea, ENG)
FORWARDS (5): 6-Deanne Rose (Univ. of Florida, USA), 9-Evelyne Viens (Paris FC, FRA), 15-Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash, USA), 16-Janine Beckie (Manchester City, ENG), 19-Adriana Leon (West HamUnited, ENG)
BACK IN ACTIONThe SheBelieves Cup opener against the USA will be Canada’s first match in 345 days, like most nations around the world, forced into a lengthy delay in programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada’s last on-field action came in March of 2020 when it participated in the Tournoi de France in Calais, France. Canada fell to France, 1-0, on March 3, tied the Netherland, 0-0, on March 7, and drew Brazil, 2-2, in its most recent outing on March 10. In the meeting against Brazil, Canada erased a two-goal halftime deficit and salvaged the draw with goals from Diana Matheson and Janine Beckie in the 74th and 87th minutes, respectively.
Canada’s only other game action in 2020 during the Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Championship, where they swept through the group stage – outscoring the opposition 22-0 – and beat Costa Rica, 1-0, to qualify for their fourth consecutive Olympics. Canada then fell in the title game to the USA, 3-0, on Feb. 9 meeting at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. Despite the loss, goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé won the Golden Glove and Jordyn Huitema won the Golden Shoe for their performances in the tournament.
Due to an injury, Canada will be without the services of talisman Christine Sinclair, one of the greatest players in the history of women’s soccer and the all-time leading international scorer in the history of the world with 186 goals. A living legend in Canada, the 37-year-old is now in her 22nd year of playing international soccer. She was chasing Abby Wambach for quite a while before inevitably scoring record-breaking goal No. 185 in her 290th international game on January 29, 2020. Eleven of Christine Sinclair's 186 international goals have come against the United States, the most recent coming with a hat trick in an epic showdown in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympic Games. The USA ultimately won the game, 4-3, on a now famous header by Alex Morgan in the 122nd minute, which remains the latest ever goal scored in a FIFA competition.
Canada is also without several of its top players who were not released by their French clubs due to the new FIFA statute which allowed clubs to deny call-ups due to the pandemic if a player had to undergo a five day or more quarantine upon return to their clubs. Most notable among those not released were midfielder Ashley Lawrence with PSG, defender Kadeisha Buchanan Champions League title holders Olympique Lyonnais and Huitema, a rising star playing for Paris Saint-Germain at the age of 19.
PREMIERE FOR PRIESTMAN
Canada has a new head coach in Bev Priestman, a former assistant coach for Canada who spent the last three years as an assistant coach for England with Phil Neville. Priestman was hired in late October of 2020 and previously coached Canada's U-17 and U-20 Women’s National Teams in addition to being an assistant under former Canada head coach John Herdman. She was an assistant on Herdman’s staff for the 2016 Olympics, helping Canada capture its second consecutive bronze medal. The 34-year-old England native most recently served as England’s Women’s U-18 National Team Head Coach and was scheduled to lead England at the postponed 2021 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in India.
VISA SHEBELIEVES CUP MVP SPOTLIGHT: SOPHIE SCHMIDT
The most-capped player on Canada’s roster for the 2021 SheBelieves Cup presented by Visa, Sophie Schmidt enters the tournament with 199 caps and 19 goals in her 16-year international career. Schmidt would join Sinclair (296) and Matheson (206) as the only Canadian players with 200 or more caps. A two-time Olympic bronze medalist, Schmidt currently plays her club soccer for the NWSL’s Houston Dash, where she is teammates with the USA’s Jane Campbell and Kristie Mewis, along with fellow Canadian internationals Allysha Chapman and Nichelle Prince.
Midfielder Desiree Scott is the only other player on Canada’s SheBelieves Cup roster with over 100 caps (156) while Beckie is the highest scorer on this roster with 31 goals in 70 international appearances.
Fans will have the opportunity to vote for the 2021 Visa SheBelieves Cup MVP award recipient, using an online ballot to select among a list of finalists chosen by the committee. The fan-vote will be incorporated into the overall determination of the Visa SheBelieves Cup MVP, which is being awarded for the second consecutive year.