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Canada names 23-player roster for inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup

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Canada coach Bev Priestman had one eye on this summer's Paris Olympics and the other on the 2027 FIFA World Cup in choosing her 23-player roster for the upcoming CONCACAF W Gold Cup.

With the Olympic roster size at just 18, Priestman is looking for versatility in her squad with some hard decisions having to be made ahead of Paris.

"I don't know about you but trying to get this to a 23(-player) roster was very hard," she told reporters in a virtual availability Wednesday.

As for further down the line, Priestman is checking the depth available to her and looking to give young players more experience.

Canada's squad for the inaugural women's Gold Cup, which runs Feb. 20 to March 10 in the United States, has an average age of 26 with 11 players 25 or younger. Priestman pointed to last summer's World Cup, saying the successful teams all had under-25 talent "performing at the highest level."

"What you see post-World Cup from us is blooding the likes of a Simi (Awujo) starting games and Jade Rose. All these sorts of players who are very young but are ready to take the reins," said Priestman.

"I think that's what you'd expect to see now in the Gold Cup (and) moving forward (to the) Olympics — getting them ready, cap accumulation, but 2027 what does this team also look like?"

Midfielder Jessie Fleming, recently acquired by the Portland Thorns and the expected choice to succeed Christine Sinclair as captain, and former Chelsea teammates Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence are among the 23 players called up.

Forwards Deanne Rose and Clarissa Larisey are both back after injury absences.

Canada, ranked 10th in the world, has been drawn in Group C with No. 43 Costa Rica, No. 50 Paraguay and either No. 80 Guatemala or No. 104 El Salvador.

The Guatemala-El Salvador matchup is one of three playoff games scheduled for Feb. 17 in Carson, Calif. The other two are No. 51 Haiti versus No. 103 Puerto Rico and No. 87 Guyana versus No. 107 Dominican Republic.

The playoffs will fill the final three spots in the 12-team tournament field.

Canada will play all three group games in Houston's Shell Energy Stadium, opening against Guatemala or El Salvador on Feb. 22 before facing Paraguay on Feb. 25 and Costa Rica on Feb. 28.

Before the CONCACAF competition, Canada will hold a Feb. 12-18 camp in Texas for out-of-season players and to assess new talent and those returning from injury.

Players in season in Europe will join the Canadian team for the tournament.

University of Pennsylvania goalkeeper Laurence Gladu and Angel City defender Megan Reid, who holds both American and Canadian citizenship, have been invited to the pre-camp.

Veteran midfielder Desiree Scott, who is returning from a long-term leg injury, will also attend the pre-camp. But forward Janine Beckie, who is coming off knee surgery, has not been summoned.

The hope had been both would be ready for the W Cup. But more time is needed for the two to be tournament-ready.

"We had to take the bigger picture decision for both of those players," said Priestman.

Scott, Gladu and Reid will return to their respective clubs/universities at the end of the camp.

There is also a question mark over defender Jayde Riviere, who had to come off in the first half of Manchester United's 2-0 won over Brighton on Sunday.

"Fingers crossed that Jayde will be with us but there's every chance that she may not be," said Priestman.

The 23-player tournament roster includes eight players from England's FA Women's Super League, two from Italy and one from each of Australia, France, Portugal and Sweden. There are seven players from the NWSL and two from the NCAA ranks.

Following the Gold Cup round-robin stage, the three group winners, three runners-up and the two best third-place finishers move on to the quarterfinals at BMO Stadium in Los Angeles.

Canada has won five of six since a disappointing showing at the World Cup in Australia that saw it exit after the group stage. Priestman's team, which went 7-5-1 in 2023, has conceded just two goals since the World Cup and recorded three consecutive clean sheets.

The 12-team Olympic soccer competition runs July 24 to Aug. 10.

Canada Pre-Camp Roster (x- denotes players returning to their respective clubs/universities after the pre-camp)

Goalkeepers: x-Laurence Gladu, Kailen Sheriden, Lysianne Proulx.

Defenders: Gabrielle Carle, Sydney Collins, x-Megan Reid; Jade Rose.

Midfielders: Simi Awujo, Jessie Fleming, Quinn, x-Desiree Scott.

Forwards: Jordyn Huitema, Clarissa Larisey, Nichelle Prince.

Canada's CONCACAF W Gold Cup Roster

Goalkeepers: Sabrina D'Angelo, Arsenal (England); Lysianne Proulx, Melbourne City (Australia); Kailen Sheridan San Diego Wave (NWSL).

Defenders: Kadeisha Buchanan, Chelsea (England); Gabrielle Carle, Washington Spirit (NWSL); Sydney Collins, North Carolina Courage (NWSL); Vanessa Gilles, Olympique Lyonnais (France); Ashley Lawrence, Chelsea (England); Jayde Riviere, Manchester United (England); Jade Rose, Harvard University (NCAA); Shelina Zadorsky, West Ham (England).

Midfielders: Simi Awujo, USC (NCAA); Jessie Fleming, Portland Thorns (NWSL); Julia Grosso, Juventus (Italy); Quinn, Seattle Reign (NWSL).

Midfielder/Forward: Olivia Smith, Sporting CP (Portugal).

Forwards: Jordyn Huitema, Seattle Reign (NWSL); Cloé Lacasse, Arsenal (England); Clarissa Larisey, BK Häcken FF (Sweden); Adriana Leon, Aston Villa (England); Nichelle Prince, Kansas City Current (NWSL); Deanne Rose, Leicester City (England); Evelyne Viens, AS Roma (Italy).

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2024.