Two players with state ties are looking to help their national teams earn berths in next year's Women's World Cup – and even though both players were born in the U.S., they're playing for their parents' homelands and not the red, white and blue.
Forward Generve Charles (Wausau East) is playing with Haiti at the CONCACAF Women's Championship, which kicked off this week in Kansas City, while UW-Parkside midfielder Mia Espino is with Guatemala.
The 22-year-old Charles is a senior at Drake, where she has three goals in six appearances for the Bulldogs this season and 12 goals and three assists in 55 career games. She missed all of the 2013 season due to a torn ACL in her knee.
After being asked by coach Shek Borkowski to join the Haitian team – her father, Duronet, is from the country of 10 million that shares an island in the Carribbean with the Dominican Republic – Charles made her international debut Aug. 19.
And the former two-time Wisconsin Valley Conference Player of the Year marked her first cap with a goal, finishing off the Haitians' 5-1 rout of Bermuda in the Women's Caribbean Cup in Trinidad. Haiti finished third in the event to earn a spot in the CONCACAF Women's Championship.
Charles made the 20-player roster for the regional tournament, but was an unused sub as Haiti opened Group A play with a 1-0 victory over Guatemala on Wednesday night – despite seeing goalkeeper Cynthia Chery sent off in the 17th minute.
The Haitians, whose roster is primarily made up of players who play for Borkowski with FC Indiana in the Women's Premier Soccer League, face Trinidad and Tobago tonight at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the 20-year-old Espino started and played the first half Wednesday for Guatemala before being subbed off in her first full international cap.
"La Seleccion Chapina," which like Haiti has never qualified for the Women's World Cup, earned its spot in the regional tournament by winning all three of its matches in Central American qualifying in May. Guatemala takes on the U.S., the world's top-ranked team, at 8 p.m. tonight – just outside Espino's hometown of Chicago.
Espino, who hasn't appeared in a match for Parkside as a freshman this fall, scored in the Guatemalans' 11-0 rout of Florida junior college Broward College in a friendly on Oct. 4. Her older sister Jasmine, who completed her career at Parkside last fall, earned three caps in March 2013 – the sisters' parents are both natives of Guatemala.
Group A action wraps up Monday in Washington, D.C., with Guatemala facing Trinidad and Tobago at 4 p.m. and the Haitians playing the U.S. at 6:30 p.m. The top two teams in the group advance to next Friday's semifinals.
The two finalists will earn berths in the Women's World Cup, which starts June 6 in Canada, along with the winner of the third-place match. The fourth-place finishers will take on the third-place team from South America for another spot in the 24-team field. As tournament host, Canada claimed an automatic berth.