Canada’s Youthful Road to Success
Canada, utilizing a strong youth base, quickly went from international bottom feeder to top ten power within a few years. Their success can, in many ways, act as an effective development model to other countries trying to build competitive national team programs, even more so than the neighboring Americans’ “big bang” effect of Women’s World Cup 1999. The fact that Canada’s Women’s National Team program has attracted more funding and support than the men’s side is a unique aspect of the Canadian story. It all began with Canada’s faith in the power of youth.
The Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) has done an excellent job in growing youth soccer in the country. There are approximately nine hundred thousand youth and adult players, with women and girls making up more than a third of that figure, the highest percentage of any nation in the world, according to FIFA’S 2006 Big Count survey. Significantly, soccer’s numbers eclipsed the national pastime of hockey a few years ago, in no small part thanks to the female players. Canada began its Women’s National Team program in 1986, a year after the United States, with two games against the Americans in Minnesota, but for many years the team would only get together shortly ahead of games and then disband immediately afterward. Still, they were the second team in the weak CONCACAF