Question of depth

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 7:19 AM ET

Canada isn't among the 32 nations contesting the 2006 FIFA World Cup. It'll be the fifth consecutive time the men have missed after debuting 20 years ago in Mexico.

Maple leaf women, meanwhile, are plotting their route to 2007's Women's World Cup in China.

Under head coach Even Pellerud, the women were the first Canadian squad (male or female) to win a quarterfinal match in World Cup play during 2003's tournament in the U.S.

The 1-0 win on Oct. 2, 2003 eliminated China, 1999's runner-up. Canada lost a semi-final to eventual runner-up Sweden and came home fourth in the world.

To get to China in September 2007, Canada must qualify this November against other nations in CONCACAF, the North and Central America and Caribbean zone.

Pellerud will convene a week-long training camp Sunday in Nanaimo, which means Whitecaps like Andrea Neil, Christine Sinclair, Kara Lang and Erin McLeod will be Vancouver Island-bound after hosting the Mile High Edge at Swangard Stadium Saturday (7 p.m.).

"The goal is to get together more often and not completely just disrupt the W-League season for huge portions of the year," said Neil. "Some of the W-League teams were able to schedule games around national team camps."

Canada, which included 10 Whitecaps, beat Netherlands in March friendlies in Vancouver and Victoria. Canada won all five games during April's training camp tour against NCAA teams.

The Nats' next match is June 25 against Italy in Etobicoke, Ont. Whitecaps' head coach Bob Birarda will rely on reserves for a three-game, mid-June tour of Colorado and June 25's home game against the Fort Collins Force.

Birarda is already preparing. In Saturday's 5-0 road win over the San Diego Gauchos, he gave substantial playing time to Kirsteen Buchan, Ciara McCormack, Ashley McGhee, Lindsay Rohla and Stephanie Smith. Only McCormack figured in scoring as she assisted the second Sinclair goal. Lang also had a pair and Martina Franko a single. McLeod registered the shutout.

Whitecaps are stocked with the present and future of Canada's national team program, but fans could get a glimpse of the past. The reserves' roster includes 40-year-old Geri Donnelly. The Port Moody product scored Canada's first international women's goals in a 2-1 victory over the U.S. on July 9, 1986. She retired after captaining Canada in 1999's Women's World Cup.


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