FRISCO, Texas -- If Panama qualifies for its first FIFA Women's World Cup, Karla Riley sees it not only as a major accomplishment for this generation of players, but as a significant boost for the future of women's soccer in the Central American country.
Los Canaleros meet Canada in the 2018 concacaf Women's Championship semifinals at Toyota Stadium on Sunday, with the winner booking a spot at France 2019. The loser will get another opportunity to reach the world championship Wednesday's third-place match.
"I would be very proud," Riley said. "It is a dream myself and my teammates have. We have been fighting for this day to day, just every practice. It would be an honor to open the door for the players that are coming behind us, so they have an easier opportunity than we had."
Clinching a berth would complete a unique brace for Panama, whose men's side qualified for the World Cup for the first time, for Russia 2018.
"Reaching our first World Cup, it does mean we're doing things well," head coach Victor Suarez remarked. "We have to continue to work well. For the Panamanians, it's going to be expecting us to reach another World Cup, male or female. If we don't continue working from the young players from the young coaches, it's going to be hard to reach the World Cup again.”
Riley has seen the Panamanians improve through the competition, posting a 2W-0D-1L mark.
"The team has grown a lot," she concluded. "Based on negative comments and our dreams, every day we wake up with that motivation to reach the first World Cup. We've seen what the men did and [Panama] got excited for the World Cup. We want to get to that first World Cup."