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Canada names midfielder Jessie Fleming captain of the women's soccer team

Midfielder Jessie Fleming will lead the Canadian women's soccer team into the CONCACAF W Gold Cup and beyond.

The 25-year-old from London, Ont., was officially appointed captain Wednesday on the eve of Canada's tournament opener against El Salvador in Houston.

The move has been expected since longtime skipper Christine Sinclair retired from the international game in December. Fleming often served as captain when Sinclair was unavailable, leading the team out 11 times over the past two years.

Fleming's appointment as skipper was overshadowed by a lawsuit filed by the Canadian Soccer Players' Association, which represents the Canadian women's team, against 15 current and former board members of Canada Soccer. The lawsuit, filed on Ontario Superior Court, alleged "negligence and breach of fiduciary duty" stemming from the governing body's controversial marketing and broadcast rights agreement with Canadian Soccer Business.

Fleming declined to comment on the lawsuit, other than to say that it was before the courts and that the Canadian players were focused on what lay ahead on the pitch.

Canada coach Bev Priestman said Fleming is backed by the team's leadership group, citing her respect, humility and ability to lead by example.

"I know Jessie is the type of captain that will take players with her … She's stepped up in some big moments for this team," said Priestman.

"We don't need anything different from Jessie," she added. "She leads in the way she leads, very authentically, and it's very well-received by the group."

Fleming has won 125 caps for Canada, earning Olympic bronze in 2016 and gold in 2021. Now a member of the Portland Thorns, she previously spent four seasons with England's Chelsea.

Costa Rica and Paraguay meet in the opening of the Group C doubleheader Thursday with Canada-El Salvador to follow at Shell Energy Stadium.

Canada and El Salvador have never met at senior level in CONCACAF play.

Eleven members of the 23-woman El Salvador roster play in the U.S. with another four in Mexico and one in Nicaragua. The remaining seven play in El Salvador.

The 10th-ranked Canadians qualified for the tournament by virtue of their CONCACAF Olympic playoff victory over Jamaica in September.

El Salvador went a perfect 6-0-0 in League B Group B of the Road to the T Gold Cup. Brenda Ceren, who plays for Mexico's Atlas FC, scored all three goals in the qualifying win over Guatemala.

In other qualifying play Saturday in Carson, No. 103 Puerto Rico edged No. 51 Haiti 1-0 and the 107th-ranked Dominican Republic defeated No. 87 Guyana 1-0.

The Dominican Republic joins the second-ranked Americans, No. 31 Argentina, No. 35 Mexico in Group A while Puerto Rico moves into Group B with No. 11 Brazil, No. 23 Colombia and No. 55 Panama.

The group winners, runners-ups and the two best third-place finishers will advance to the tournament's quarterfinals.

The Gold Cup runs through March 10 in Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego and Carson.

The knockout stage will start with the quarterfinals at Los Angeles' BMO Stadium on March 2 and 3, followed by the semifinals and final at San Diego's Snapdragon Stadium on March 6 and 10, respectively.

Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Paraguay are the four top teams from the 2022 Women's Copa America. Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama qualified for the tournament's main draw by winning their League A groups in Road to W Gold Cup play between September and October.

Paraguay finished fourth in the 2022 Women's Copa America, beaten 2-0 by Brazil in the semifinal and 2-1 by Argentina in the third-place match.

The men's CONCACAF Gold Cup has been held since 1991 with Canada winning in 2000.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2024.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press