SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – The U.S. Under-20 women’s national team defeated Puerto Rico, 7-0, in the semifinals of the Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship on Thursday to earn a berth to the 2022 U-20 Women’s World Cup.
Forward Simone Jackson tallied a second-half hat-trick and team captain Michelle Cooper added two goals in the first half as the young Americans secured their ticket to the World Cup, set for this August in Costa Rica.
The USA has qualified for all 10 Women’s World Cups held at this age level (plus the 2020 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, which was cancelled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic). The first two World Cups were staged as U-19 events in 2002 and 2004, and the USA has now qualified for the U-20 WWC in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2022.
The Americans advanced to the championship game and will face the winner of the other semifinal — Canada vs. Mexico — at Estadio Olímpico Félix Sánchez Saturday at 3:40 p.m. ET. The U.S. is aiming for its record seventh Concacaf title at this level.
The USA became the first nation to qualify by its on-field play for the U-20 Women’s World Cup. While Costa Rica earned an automatic berth as host, the Asian, European and Oceanic confederations all canceled their qualification tournaments due to the global pandemic and nominated participants based on the results of their respective 2019 U-19 championships. Africa and South America will conclude their World Cup qualifying competitions later this month.
Puerto Rico did well to hold off the U.S. attack early on, denying dangerous chances until midfielder Talia DellaPeruta opened the scoring with a 25-yard scorcher in the 19th minute. It took the Americans only three minutes to double its lead as midfielder Olivia Moultrie shook off two defenders with some fancy footwork deep inside the penalty box and fired from five yards to beat the goalkeeper.
Cooper then took the spotlight as she bagged a brace in six minutes, the first following a clever combination in which defender Laney Rouse played a ball into the box and forward Trinity Byars let it run past with a dummy. The ball rolled to Cooper for the open shot, as she curled it off the right post and into the net. She added her second by converting a penalty kick in the 41st minute after Byars was brought down inside the box.
Jackson entered the game at halftime for Cooper and made the second half her spectacle. She scored her first of the night in the 65th minute, bringing the ball down inside the box with a slick touch and firing hard just inside the left post to beat the goalkeeper from 10 yards.
The forward added her second in the 76th minute with a brilliant shot from the edge of the goal box following a forced turnover and quick pass from forward Avery Patterson. Jackson completed her hat-trick in the 81st minute after Patterson received the ball inside the box and turned on her defender, sending a low pass across the box to find her teammate on the right side, where she powerfully buried it from 10 yards.
Jackson’s hat-trick, scored over the span of 16 minutes, tied the fastest three-goal performance by the USA at this tournament since 2004, a record set by Patterson vs. Puerto Rico in the group stage on Feb. 27.
Puerto Rico goalkeeper Ariana Anderson, who plays for the Dallas-area youth club Solar SC, had a solid match, making 14 saves to keep the score from getting any higher.