Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Archive for June 20, 2007

June 20, 2007 — Bob Bradley, Pam Bustin, Lee Bodimeade, and back-to-back tournaments

There are a couple of very interesting parallels between what the United States men’s soccer and women’s field hockey teams are up against this summer.

Crowded international calendars have had the U.S. Soccer Federation and USA Field Hockey, the national governing bodies of their respective sports, making some interesting choices as to what is best for the overall development of their programs.

Bob Bradley, who has not yet lost as manager of the U.S. men, is presently coaching in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. It is a tournament into which the United States is putting its main effort. That’s because there is a sizable reward at the end.

The reward is a berth in the FIFA Confederations’ Cup, a world championship tournament in which only the six continental champions qualify. The FIFA World Cup, on the other hand, has 32 teams, with different levels of participation from each continent. Europe, for example, sends many more teams than Oceania.

The USSF also accepted an invitation for the Copa America, which will determine South America’s champion for the Confederations’ Cup. While the U.S. would not be able to win CONMEBOL’s berth, it still can use the tournament as a developmental experience for young players.

Meanwhile, the U.S. women’s field hockey team has had a similar schedule glut, with the ATA Champions’ Challenge and the Pan American Games being played in a space of about seven weeks. Now, the reward for winning the Champions’ Challenge is a berth in the following year’s Champions’ Trophy. Equally important, however, are a boost in world rankings points; the last-place team in the Champions’ Trophy gets more points than the winner of the Champions’ Challenge, which helps boost a team’s world ranking and could allow its continent more automatic berths in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup and beyond.

The United States, however, put its eggs into its Pan American Games basket. That’s because the U.S. women’s field hockey team, emboldened by a pair of wins over Argentina in the past year, is focusing on defeating the Albicelestes for the lone Pan American Hockey Federation berth in the 2008 Olympics.

So, for the Champions’ Challenge, the U.S. sent a not-quite-full-strength team and putting Louisville head coach and former U.S. international Pam Bustin in charge.

The Americans earned a pair of monumental wins at the 2007 Champions’ Challenge and was perhaps one goal away from playing for the title, even without the likes of Kate Barber, Angie Loy, and Keli Smith making the trip to Azerbajian.

Next month, Lee Bodimeade will have his pick of players for the Pan American Games, hoping to avoid having to play a six-nations qualification tournament in order to make Beijing 2008.

I’ve said it was a tough assignment, but the wins over China and New Zealand at the Champions’ Challenge should give U.S. supporters some hope.