Two years after making her debut as Canada coach at the SheBelieves Cup, Bev Priestman is headed back to the four-team tournament, this time stocked with a deeper arsenal.
Priestman has named an 18-player roster for a pre-tournament camp Feb. 8-12 with reinforcements expected to arrive for the competition, which kicks off Feb. 16 in Orlando, once the FIFA international window opens.
"For me the team has massively grown in depth," she told reporters Wednesday. "I probably could have invited — budget allowing and everything — another 10 players into this pre-camp to be looked at … There's a whole lot of talent out there."
"Right now I can hand on heart say I don't know how I'm going to even pick the (final) 23 for the SheBelieves (Cup) based on who's in front of me, " she added.
The sixth-ranked Canadians open against the top-ranked U.S. in Orlando before facing No. 9 Brazil on Feb. 19 in Nashville and No. 11 Japan on Feb. 22 in Frisco, Texas.
"I think that we're going to experience is big crowds, big pressure — everything you need going into a World Cup year," said Priestman. "Three totally different opponents."
Priestman and the Canadian women are preparing for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this summer. Canada plays No. 45 Nigeria on July 21 in Melbourne before facing No. 23 Ireland on July 26 in Perth and No. 12 Australia on July 31 back in Melbourne.
The Canadian women will only have an international window in April and a camp in advance of the World Cup to prepare for the soccer showcase, which is being expanded to a 32-team field from 24.
"I can't wait for that opening game to kick off," said Priestman. "But we've still got some growth to do between now and then. We made massive, massive strides last year … We climbed some big parts of the mountain but we now need to pick that up and keep climbing and grow along the way.
"And these three big tests are going to help us grow even more."
The Canadian camp roster predominantly features players from out-of-season leagues like the NWSL, Sweden's Damallsvenskan and those whose European clubs don't have a game scheduled ahead of the tournament.
It does not include such English-based players as goalkeeper Sabrina D'Angelo (Arsenal), defenders Kadeisha Buchanan (Chelsea) and Shelina Zadorsky (Tottenham), midfielder Jessie Fleming (Chelsea) and striker Adriana Leon (Manchester United) or France-based fullback/midfielder Ashley Lawrence (Paris St-Germain).
"Absolutely it will be topped up with some of the usual players that this group been accustomed to," Priestman said.
Veteran midfielder Desiree Scott was not selected because of injury. Forwards Deanne Rose and Nichelle Prince are both recovering from long-term injuries but should be ready for the World Cup in July.
Canada defeated Argentina 1-0 but lost 1-0 to the U.S. and 2-0 to Brazil at the 2021 She Believes Cup. The Canadian women lost only one more match the rest of that year, finishing 2021 with a 7-3-7 record and the gold medal from the Tokyo Olympics.
Goalkeepers: Lysianne Proulx, SCU Torreense (Portugal); Kailen Sheridan, San Diego Wave FC (NWSL).
Defenders: Gabrielle Carle, Washington Spirit (NWSL); Allysha Chapman, Houston Dash (NWSL); Vanessa Gilles, Olympique Lyonnais (France); Quinn, OL Reign (NWSL); Jade Rose, Harvard University (NCAA); Bianca St-Georges, Chicago Red Stars (NWSL).
Midfielders: Simi Awujo, University of Southern California (NCAA); Victoria Pickett, NJ/NY Gotham FC (NWSL); Sophie Schmidt, Houston Dash (NWSL); Christine Sinclair, Portland Thorns (NWSL).
Forwards: Amanda Allen, NDC-CDN Ontario; Janine Beckie, Portland Thorns (NWSL); Jenna Hellstrom, Dijon Football Cote d’Or (France); Jordyn Huitema, OL Reign (NWSL); Clarissa Larisey, BK Hacken FF (Sweden); Evelyne Viens, Kristianstads DFF (Sweden).
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2023.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press