History of Women’s Soccer in Canada

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By Harrison Kalt 


The Early Years:

In the early years, Canada participated in the 1988 Women’s Invitational Tournament in the People’s Republic of China. Played over the course of two weeks, the 12-team tournament served as an antecedent to the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup that took place three years later.[1]

1991 World Cup: China


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Canada took part in the qualifiers for the World Cup but did not advance to the final competition in China after losing to the United States by a score of 5-0 in the inaugural CONCACAF Women’s Championship (otherwise known as the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup) that was held in Haiti.[2]


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In 1994, Canada hosted their first Women’s Gold Cup.

Consisting of five teams – Canada, Jamaica, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States – the tournament took place in Montreal between August 13 and 21.

Played in a round-robin style, Canada posted three wins and one loss at Stade Claude-Robillard and eventually qualified in 2nd place, securing a spot in their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup.[3]

1995 World Cup: Sweden


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Tournament Top Scorer (Golden Boot): Ann-Kristin Aarones (6) – Norway

Canadian Top Scorer(s): Stoumbos (2), Burtini (2), Farley (2)

Overall Result (Canada): Did not advance to knock-out

Held in Sweden, the second installment of the Women’s World Cup lacked the same excitement that the inaugural tournament in China had brought.

While over half a million fans showed up over the course of the 26-match tournament four years prior, only 112,213 total spectators managed to show up to this year’s tournament in Sweden (an average of only 4,316 per match), with a disappointing 17,158 showing up to the final between Norway and Germany that was held in Stockholm.[4]

In their first match, played on June 6th of that year, Canada went down 3-0 to an English team that had also not qualified for the tournament’s opening installment. Undeterred, 24-year-old forward Helen Stoumbos and 29-year-old captain and midfielder Geri Donnelly scored a goal apiece in an eventual 3-2 defeat.

The team went on to tie their next match 3-3 against Nigeria, as 25-year-old forward Silvana Burtini came onto the scene with two vital goals alongside captain Geri Donnelly who scored her second goal in two games.

In their last match, the Canadian team lost a tough 7-0 match to the eventual winners, Norway, who had the advantage of proximity.[5]

With 11 female referees in the tournament, including Sonia Denoncourt of Canada who served as head referee during the United States victory over China in the 3rd place game, and Ingrid Jonsson, who oversaw Norway’s 2-0 victory over the Germans, the 1995 tournament served as a positive step for both women’s soccer as a whole and the women’s game in Canada despite low attendance amongst European fans.[6]


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Canada hosted the fourth installment of the Women’s Gold Cup that was held in 1998.[7] In the decade following the formation of Canada’s first women’s team in 1986, players like Geri Donnelly, Silvana Burtini, and Charmaine Hooper played a pioneering role in establishing the women’s game in the country.

These three, along with several other key contributors like goalkeeper Nicole Wright, who posted five clean sheets in five wins, and midfielders Amy Walsh and Andrea Neil, led the charge for a team that would eventually outscore its opponents 42 goals to nil over a dominating 7-week period.

In front of a sellout crowd in Ontario’s Centennial Stadium, Canada’s 22-year old midfielder Liz Smith scored the sole goal that led them to a 1-0 victory over Mexico and their first CONCACAF Women’s Championship.[8]

Only a year later, the invigorated Canadian squad went to the United States on a mission to repeat the success they had experienced just a year before. Complying with a suggestion from the FIFA President, Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, the FIFA Referees’ Committee appointed only women referees to the 1999 cup.[9]

1999 World Cup: USA


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Tournament Top Scorer (Golden Boot): Sissi (7) – Brazil, Sun Wen (7) – China

Canadian Top Scorer(s): Hooper (2)

Overall Result (Canada): Did not advance to knock-out

With five returning players from the 1995 team, including captain Silvana Burtini, the winner of Canada’s Player of the Year honors in 1998 and MVP of their 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup victory, the team seemed poised to make a name for itself on a worldwide stage.

In their first match against Japan, a formidable and veteran team that had reached the quarterfinal of the 1995 cup, the Canadian women tied 1-1 in front of over 23,000 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose (almost 5 times as many people as they played in front of in the 1998 Gold Cup final).[10] After losing back-to-back matches to Norway and Russia, the team went home disappointed but motivated to make sure that things would change over the course of the next four years.


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The 2002 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup was co-hosted by North America’s most distinguished teams, the United States and Canada.

Held in Seattle and Vancouver, the two hosts ultimately made their way to a final showdown on November 9th after dominating their respective groups (the United States outscored their opponents 15-0 while the Canadians breezed through there group by a combined score of 23-1).

Played at the Rose Bowl on a blisteringly hot November 9th afternoon, the final was not played to determine who would advance due to the new FIFA rules that allowed the top two CONCACAF teams to move on.[11]

Nonetheless, the Canadian women went into the match scoreless against the United States in their history and were determined to show that they could play with the Americans.

Despite losing 2-1 to a heartbreaking Mia Hamm golden goal, the Canadian women proved to both themselves and the world that they could compete with the best.[12]

2003 World Cup: USA


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Tournament Top Scorer (Golden Boot): Birgit Prinz (7) – Germany

Canadian Top Scorer(s): Latham (3), Sinclair (3)

Overall Result (Canada): 4th Place

The following year, the Canadian team travelled to the United States, after the tournament was moved from China due to the outbreak of SARS[13], with just 5 players from the previous World Cup. Nonetheless, they were incredibly young and dynamic, with an average age of 23 amongst their whole squad.

Following a disappointing 4-1 opening loss to a strong German squad, the Canadian squad was able to regroup and record its first ever win on this world stage by securing a 3-0 victory over Argentina behind a goal by Charmaine Hooper and two late strikes by 22-year-old striker Christine Latham who was playing in his first and only World Cup.

3 short days later, they followed up their initial success with a resounding 3-1 victory over established soccer-power Japan behind another goal by Latham and a vital 49th minute strike by Sinclair.

Advancing to their first ever knockout stages, the Canadian women were determined to shock the world when they faced a Chinese team that had placed second in the ’99 Cup and was returning 9 vital members of its team.

In front of 20,000 fans, the Canadian women made history behind Charmaine Hooper’s lone goal in the 7th minute by holding off the Chinese 1-0.

Continuing on their run, the Canadians led their semifinal showdown with an impressive Swedish squad that had advanced past the group stages in every World Cup to date. But two quick goals, in the 79th and 86th minutes, dashed their hopes and ended their magical run.[14]


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Invigorated by their ascension to women’s football prominence, the young Canadian team, now without retired legend and captain Silvana Burtini, arrived to the 2006 Gold Cup in the United States with the confidence that they could play toe to toe with the Americans.

After both receiving byes because of their spots in the 2002 Gold Cup final, the US and Canada met again in this year’s installment of the final. Tied 1-1 after 90 grueling minutes of play, the two teams battled it out for another 30 minutes until Kristine Lilly converted an extremely controversial penalty kick in the 120th and last minute of play.[15]

2007 World Cup: China


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Tournament Top Scorer (Golden Boot): Marta (7) – Brazil

Canadian Top Scorer(s): Sinclair (3)

Overall Result (Canada): Did not advance to knock-out

Months later, the Canadians travelled to China with 10 players from their last World Cup squad. Despite a 2-1 loss to perennial power Norway, the women were able to regroup with a 4-0 victory over a Ghanaian team that was looking to advance past the group stage for the first time.

Needing a win over a motivated Australian squad that had tied Norway 1-1 just five days prior, the Canadians scored seconds into the match behind left-footed shot by striker Melissa Tancredi who was playing in her first World Cup.

Despite taking a 2-1 lead into the 85th minute of this group finale, the Canadians were eliminated on a nightmarish goal that came in the 93rd minute of the match.[16]
While the team was no doubt dismayed by their result in China, they were given the chance to right their wrongs by qualifying for their first ever Olympics game. Just months after their heartbreaking draw against Australia, the squad regrouped, breezing through the opening stages without conceding even a single goal. After winning a tough 1-0 semifinal matchup over a poised Mexican squad, the team had qualified for their first ever Olympics game and were on their way to China once again.[17]

2008 Olympic Games: Beijing


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Tournament Top Scorer (Golden Boot): Cristiane (5) – Brazil

Canadian Top Scorer(s): Chapman, Lang, Sinclair, Tancredi (1)

Overall Result (Canada): Did not advance to knock-out

After an impressive 2-1 victory over Argentina in their opening game at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, the Canadians drew against the home Chinese squad before taking on a Swedish team that needed a win to advance over the Canadians.

Down 2-0 after consecutive goals by Lotta Schelin, known in Sweden as a female version of fellow star Zlatan Ibrahimovic because of her height and physical style of play, the Canadians were able to half the lead with a goal by Melissa Tancredi.

Playing in front of thousands of enthused supporters, the team fell just short and was sent home short of the knock-out stages in its first ever Olympic appearance.


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While the team was no doubt dismayed by their result in China, they were given a chance at a reprieve during the 2010 Gold Cup that took place in Cancún, Mexico.

After a string of straight-forward wins, Canada advanced to the finals to play a Mexican team that had shocked its own constituents when it pulled off a stunning 2-1 upset of the United States in front of a sellout crowd in Cancún.

3 days later, Canada defeated the home side to win their 2nd overall CONCACAF Gold Cup, the first of which was won during a year in which the United States received an automatic bye because they were hosting the upcoming World Cup.

2011 World Cup: Germany 


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Tournament Top Scorer (Golden Boot): Homare Sawa (5) – Japan

Canadian Top Scorer: Sinclair (1)

Overall Result (Canada): Did not advance to knock-out

Chock-full of confidence from their resounding victory at the previous year’s Gold Cup, the Canadian team entered the 2011 World Cup in Germany looking to improve upon their record-setting performance in 2003.

With seven key players returning from their disappointing group stage defeat from 2007, including now 28-year-old Christine Sinclair, it seemed as though all of the pieces had finally fallen into place for Canada to make a real run at the title.

However, over the course of three games, Canada managed to only muster up one goal on its way to three consecutive losses to host-country Germany, a strong French side and African champion Nigeria. Since that stunning barrage of defeats, the Canadian women’s national team has participated in one additional global tournament, the Olympic games.[18]

2012 Olympic Games: London


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Tournament Top Scorer (Golden Boot): Christine Sinclair (6)

Canadian Top Scorer: Sinclair (6)

Overall Result (Canada): 3rd Place (bronze medalists)

To qualify for what would only be there second Olympics games, the Canadians were able to outlast a strong Mexican team before losing to perennial rival and number one ranked USA.

Nonetheless, the Canadian team came into London with virtually the same exact team that it had fielded in Germany. Determined to make up for their uninspired performance a year before, the team was able to make it to the knockout stages despite being placed with perennial powers Sweden and Japan.

Behind four goals by Melissa Tancredi and an additional 2 by Sinclair, Canada eventually advanced to a semifinal showdown with the United States.[19]

Considered to be one of, if not the greatest soccer game in the history of Olympic soccer, Canada was beaten 4-3 after an Alex Morgan goal in the 123rd minute.



Nonetheless, they were able to secure bronze by defeating France 1-0 to claim the country’s first ever soccer medal.


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Since that remarkable run in London, the Canadian women’s team has been quietly fueling up for this summer’s 2015 Women’s World Cup.

2015 World Cup: Canada


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As hosts, they were given a bye through the entire Gold Cup. Players like Melissa Tancredi, who has a cool 100 caps and 22 goals to her name, along with the legend Christine Sinclair, who has scored more goals and appeared more than any other woman in Canada’s soccer history, Sophie Schmidt, who has been a rock for Canada in the midfield for years, and Rhian Wilkinson, a wily 32-year-old defender who has made 163 caps, are all looking to make history this upcoming summer.

How to cite this page: “History of Women’s Soccer In Canada” Written By  Harrison Kalt (2015), World Cup 2015, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/world-cup-guides/world-cup-2015-guide/why-canada/history-of-womens-soccer-in-canada/ (accessed on (date)).


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[1] Canadasoccer.com,.2012. ‘Canadian soccer timeline from 1982 to 1992’. Accessed April 12 2015. http://www.canadasoccer.com/canadian-soccer-timeline-from-1982-to-1992-p150678.

[2] Rsssf.com,. 1991. ‘CONCACAF’s Women’s Championship 1991’. Accessed April 20 2015. http://rsssf.com/tablesc/cam-women91.html

[3] Canadasoccer.com,.2012. ‘Canadian soccer timeline from 1993 to 1996.’ Accessed April 12 2015. http://www.canadasoccer.com/canadian-soccer-timeline-from-1993-to-1996-p150679

[4] Williams, Jean. “Dusting the Mirror of Women’s Football.” Introduction. A Beautiful Game: International Perspectives on Women’s Football. Oxford: Berg, 2007. 4. Print.

[5] Ibid

[6] Fifa.com,. 2013. ‘FIFA Women’s World Cup – Sweden 1995 – Fifa.com’. Accessed April 12 2015.

[7] Concacaf.com,.2010. ‘About the CONCACAF Women’s Championship.’ Accessed April 13 2015. http://www.concacaf.com/category/world-cup-qualifying-women/about

[8] Youtube.com,.2012. ‘Moment 9: Canada wins 1998 CONCACAF Championship’. Accessed April 12 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjxDXBTk_CY

[9] Fifa.com,. 1998. ‘Women’s referees only at the 1999 Women’s World Cup in the USA’. Accessed April 12 2015. http://www.fifa.com/womensworldcup/news/y=1998/m=11/news=women-referees-only-the-1999-women-world-cup-the-usa-70451.html

[10] Nytimes.com,.1999. ‘Women’s World Cup; Bigger Crowds Watching Better Play’. Accessed April 12 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/1999/06/22/sports/women-s-world-cup-bigger-crowds-watching-better-play.html

[11] Ibid

[12] Ussoccer.com,. 2002. ‘U.S. Soccer Wire’. Accessed April 14 2015. http://www.ussoccer.com/stories/2014/03/17/11/30/u-s-soccer-wire-u-s-women-win-2002-womens-gold-cup-earn-2003-womens-world-cup-berth

[13] Nytimes.com,. 2003. ‘The SARS Epidemic: Sports’. Accessed April 13 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/25/world/the-sars-epidemic-sports-citing-illness-china-decides-to-postpone-soccer-season.html

[14] Youtube.com,.2012. ‘Moment 3: Canada Finishes fourth at FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003’. Accessed April 12 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ucQ9kHCvDU

[15] Usatoday.com,. 2006. ‘Lilly’s clutch penalty kick ices Gold for U.S. Women’. Accessed April 13 2015. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/soccer/tourneys/2006-11-26-gold-cup-final_x.htm

[16] Canadasoccer.com,.2012. ‘Canadian soccer timeline from 2005 to 2008.’ Accessed April 12 2015. http://www.canadasoccer.com/canadian-soccer-timeline-from-2005-to-2008-p150682

[17] Ussoccer.com,. 2008. ‘U.S Women’s National Team Downs Canada in Penalty Kick Shootout to Win 2008 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying’. Accessed April 13 2015. http://www.ussoccer.com/stories/2014/03/17/11/22/u-s-womens-national-team-downs-canada-in-penalty-kick-shootout-to-win-2008-concacaf-womens-olympic-q

[18] Fifa.com,. 2011. ‘Japan Claim Maiden Title’. Accessed April 13 2015.

[19] Olympic.org,.2012. ‘Olympic Results’. Accessed April 14 2015. http://www.olympic.org/olympic-results/london-2012/football

[20] Youtube.com,. 2012. ‘Greatest Game Ever – USA 4-3 Canda’. Accessed April 13 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW_F9ZRYfgc

2 thoughts on “History of Women’s Soccer in Canada

  1. Roxane

    Great Outline. Same Canada Soccer does not include this in their piece on Canada Soccer Hero’s.

  2. Laurent Dubois

    Nicely done, Harrison: a great chronology, with a nice layout and a great set of references and details. Will be a really useful guide on the history of Canadian women’s football.


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