Canada's qualification for the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup this week has been a group effort, or in truth a national effort on behalf of all the coaches, clubs, districts, provincial associations, and the CSA's National Training Centres across Canada.
Canada qualified for the U-17 World Cup in Mexico after Wednesday's 2-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago in the quarterfinal stage of the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Montego Bay, Jamaica. On Friday, they defeated Panama 1-0 to reach Sunday's championship final, where they will face arch-rivals United States. Wednesday's win marks the first time since Ecuador 1995 that Canada has qualified for a U-17 World Cup.
Canada's U-17 national team features players born 1994 or later. Every player has come through the Canadian system, with 19 of those players currently training on Canadian clubs. Of that group of 19, 14 players are members of academies that are currently in place at Canada's three professional clubs - Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
More specifically, five members of the Whitecaps FC Residency program have played an important role in leading Canada to qualification for Mexico 2011. They include defenders Adam Polakiewicz and Daniel Stanese, as well as midfielders Bryce Alderson, Wesley Cain, and Matteo Pasquotti. All five players became members of Whitecaps FC Residency last September.
After qualifying on Wednesday, head coach Sean Fleming took a moment to pay tribute to everyone that helped Canada achieve its goal. "I think they are all part of our success," he told CanadaSoccer.com. "We have a good crop of players in this age group, but it is also no secret that our players are in good soccer environments back home.
"For a player's development to be at its best, the player needs to be training in a good environment. That environment may not be the same for all players and there are different circumstances in different places from coast to coast.
"We have to always ask ourselves what is best for the players. It may not be just one model. There is some great dialogue going on with all parties involved through the Wellness to World Cup working group (the CSA's Long-Term Development Program). When everyone is working together, that helps our success on the international stage.
"We took a moment to thank all the coaches for the part that they played in our success. It is important that they are recognized in the celebration following our qualification. This is Canada's team."