Later this month, BC Place will be host to the 2012 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament. For many players on the team, this won’t be the first time playing in front of fans in Vancouver, as the squad includes 14 former members of Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Over the next two weeks, whitecapsfc.com will be profiling each of these players as we get set to support our fantastic Canadian women!
Dual-citizen. That’s enough to make any Canadian soccer fan cringe. Over the years, some of Canada’s most talented players have jumped at the opportunity to represent another country, saddening soccer supporters in the Great White North. However, when it comes to Chelsea Stewart, things have come up red and white, no blues.
Choosing which nation to represent wasn’t the only question for the Denver, Colorado born Stewart in her sporting career. Her father Bill was a hockey player and former Minnesota North Stars draft pick, and her brother Trevor also plays hockey. She naturally played hockey herself in addition to soccer, but when push came to shove she chose to kick instead.
One of the key persuasions for Stewart came in 1999, when the United States hosted the FIFA Women’s World Cup and famously won the tournament in a shootout over China to spur the growth of women’s soccer. One of Stewart’s idols was American national team player Julie Foudy. She attended the Julie Foudy Soccer Camp in Colorado and met her once at a hotel before a USA-Brazil match in 2003.
Stewart looked like she may follow in Foudy’s footsteps and play for the United States, as she spent time in their national team system. But then in 2008 she joined Whitecaps FC, appearing in six matches. That led to a call from Canada to play at the 2008 CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship in Puebla, Merxico. That was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down.
She went on to score two goals to lead Canada to gold in the tournament, and then donned the maple leaf at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Chile that year.
In 2009 Stewart returned to the ‘Caps and became a regular starter. She then played in 2010 as Vancouver made it to the W-League final. Her performance on the field earned her the 2009 Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) U-20 Female Player of the Year award, and her pride in playing for Canada saw her serve as team captain at the 2010 CONCACAF Women’s Championship in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
"I love the competition in our sport," Stewart told the CSA in May. "There is so much passion out there. You always want to go out there for the win."
Last season was another leap in her burgeoning career, as she played in her first FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany. Now she’s looking to help get Canada to the 2012 London Olympics, and after that it’s the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup here in Canada.
In 1999, she was an onlooker who could only dream of playing in a World Cup at home. Now, if she continues on her path with Canada over the next three years, she just may have her chance.
For more details on how to purchase tickets, please visit the CanadaSoccer.com CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying tournament information page.