United States, Canada secure qualification for World Cup after dominant performances in CONCACAF Women's Championship

The Associated Press
The United States and Canada secured qualification for the World Cup after demolishing Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago respectively in the CONCACAF Women's Championship

Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan each scored twice in the first half and United States earned a spot in the World Cup next summer in France with a 6-0 victory over Jamaica on Sunday in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament.

Heath's first came in the first two minutes of the match and she added a second in the 29th. Megan Rapinoe, Julie Ertz and Morgan also had first-half goals as the United States built a 5-0 lead.

Morgan's second goal was a penalty kick in the 84th minute. Top-ranked United States are the defending champion of the sport's premier event, having won the final in the 2015 World Cup against Japan. It was the team's third World Cup title.

Canada, ranked No 5 in the world, also clinched a spot in France with a 7-0 victory over Panama in the earlier game Sunday at Toyota Stadium. Christine Sinclair scored twice and Canada went on to secure a spot in next year's World Cup in France with a 7-0 victory over Panama on Sunday in the semifinals of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament.

The top three finishers in the CONCACAF Women's Championship represent the region in France, so the winners of both semifinals earned a berth before the final. The title match and the third-place game are set for Wednesday in Frisco. The fourth-place finisher will face Argentina in a playoff for a spot in France.

Jamaica, ranked No 64th in the world, was vying to become the first Caribbean nation to go to a World Cup. The Reggae Girlz upset Costa Rica 1-0 in the group stage before routing Cuba 9-0 to finish second to Canada in Group B.

The island nation re-started its women's national team program in 2014 after a six-year hiatus, boosted by the support of Bob Marley's oldest daughter, Cedella Marley.

The United States has dominated the competition in the tournament. The team averaged six goals a game in its group stage, winning all three matches. They took 114 shots, far more than the second-best team in the field, Canada (77). In their final group-stage match, the US women outshot injury-depleted Trinidad and Tobago 59-0.

Morgan's goals tied her with Canada's Adriana Leon for the tournament lead with six. Morgan has 16 goals for the United States this year, and she has 23 goals in her last 23 matches. She has 96 career goals.

Heath, who spent much of 2017 and the beginning of this year sidelined by injury, has seven goals in seven starts this year. Her second goal of the night came on a spectacular serve from Portland Thorns' teammate Lindsay Horan. On the run, Heath smashed it past Jamaica goalkeeper Sydney Schneider.

Canada also put on an impressive performance to win their match and secure qualification. Canada, ranked No 5 in the world, will make its seventh World Cup appearance. The only time Canada have missed out on the game's premier tournament was in 1991, the event's first year.

"It's massive for us," Canada's Sinclair said, adding, "It was obviously our goal coming into this tournament. It's getting more and more difficult qualifying out of CONCACAF, you see different teams making it the semifinals, with Panama and Jamaica making it."

Sinclair has 177th international goals. She ranks second on the career list €" among both men and women €" behind former US forward Abby Wambach's record of 184 goals. After her header in the 44th minute gave Canada their opening goal, Sinclair pumped her fist in celebration. She added another header in the 49th minute.

Canada had the best chances in the first half, including Allysha Chapman's shot in the 12th minute that was just off target and hit the side of the net, before Sinclair broke through. Jesse Fleming added another goal for Canada in the 48th minute, a short time before Sinclair's second. Janine Beckie and Rebecca Quinn also scored before Leon's brace. Leon has six goals in the tournament.

Seventeen teams have earned trips to the World Cup. There are seven teams yet to be determined.

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