The USA, Canada, Mexico, and occasionally Costa Rica: those are the only four teams CONCACAF has ever sent to the FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup - until now. The 2018 edition of the tournament will include a new face from CONCACAF: Haiti is among the region’s qualifiers for the first time.
Haiti’s U-20 women had missed out on their first shot at clinching a World Cup berth when they lost their CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship semifinal against the USA. But they booked their tickets to France at the second attempt, shutting out Canada to ensure that Sherly Jeudy’s 18th-minute strike was a match-winner in the third-place playoff.
Canada and Haiti had met before in this tournament: in the group stage, with Canada strolling to a 4-0 win. But Haiti had rested its starters for the earlier game, and that policy appeared to pay dividends for the Caribbean side. It did not just mean that Haiti’s first-choice players were perhaps a little fresher for the final challenge of the Championship than their Canadian counterparts, but also that second-stringers asked to step into starting roles for the third-place playoffs - such as Danielle Etienne - were already familiar with the opponent standing between them and the U-20 World Cup.
Etienne is the youngest sister of New York Red Bulls’ Derrick Etienne. Her brother came back from Couva, Trinidad, last year with his first senior international goal. She will return home from Trinidad as part of the first-ever Haiti team - the first team from anywhere in the Caribbean - to qualify for a FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup, and she played every minute of the game that won that prize for her country. The bar is set pretty high if you want to brag about what you did in Trinidad around the Etienne family dinner table.
The 2018 Women’s U-20 World Cup kicks off on August 4. The draw is scheduled for March 8.