Whitecaps FC Girls Elite head to Final Four Showcase

Grade 10 and 11 'Caps girls prepare for North America’s best

Whitecaps FC grade 10 and 11 Girls Elite players will be flying out to San Diego this week to compete in the Final Four showcase tournament, which will also allow the girls to watch the NCAA women's semifinals. The girls will play a game every day from November 29 to December 1.

It appears the hard work of the year-round, five-day training week that the U-18 Whitecaps FC girls are subjected to is paying dividends.

Due to the lack of professional opportunities on the women’s side of the sport, Whitecaps women’s and Girls Elite head coach Jesse Symons stresses the important of opportunities such as this.

“On the female side of the game, not a lot will become professional players but a lot will be given the opportunity to get their school paid for, which is obviously a huge benefit to each player,” he said. “Going down to the US gives a lot of NCAA schools a chance to see our players. They are aware of our program from past years. It’s great they will be seen at the biggest showcase in North America.”

Whitecaps FC are aware of the importance of scholarships to female athletes and have moulded their senior women’s program around this.

The 'Caps women’s team plays a three-month summer season, leaving the year open to pursue education or career opportunities.

“On the girls side the focus is predominantly in getting a scholarship or making the national team. So what we try and do is create a vehicle for that on the senior side,” said Dan Lenarduzzi, director of soccer development for Whitecaps FC. “Girls that get scholarships can come back from university and play for our women’s team in the summer, or they can be selected to different national teams.”

While this weekend it will be the grade 10 and 11 girls trying to get noticed internationally, three of the Whitecaps grade 12 players recently returned from the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup.

Striker Summer Clarke, forward Jasmin Dhanda and defender Aman Shergill all represented Canada, who impressively went 2W-0L-1D in the group stage before exiting the tournament in the quarterfinals.

With a smaller pool of talent, there are more opportunities for local girls to play for Whitecaps FC teams than the boys.

“It’s a little bit different on the girls side than it is on the boys side being that the development pool isn’t as big as the boys side,” said Lenarduzzi.

So why is women’s soccer so hot in Canada right now? Coach Symons says everyone is riding the hype train.

“There’s been a lot of hype with the Olympic qualifying tournament in town, the national team doing so well at the Olympics and with us hosting the U-20 world cup in 2014 and women’s world cup in 2015 there’s just so much hype right now.”

For more stories on youth soccer in British Columbia, visit http://beaconnews.ca/vancouver.