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BULLETIN: Feb. 6, 2018 — The Pro League schedule is more FIH than FIFA

In the world governance of field hockey, traditions die hard.

And in the assembly of the 2019 FIH Pro League, the world governing body of the sport didn’t create its own match weeks where all teams would play a mid-week fixture with half at home, and then the other half will have a home game sometime during the weekend.

Instead, it created a hodgepodge schedule which has given many teams different challenges and opportunities, especially towards the end of the competition in June 2019.

The FIH schedulers pitted the men’s and women’s teams from Belgium and Holland against each other in Belgium on June 8, followed by two reverse fixtures the next day in the Netherlands.

Indeed, the league seems to be basically built on having as many doubleheaders as possible, as there is heavy overlap amongst the 18 national teams. Among the more prominent doubleheaders will be Holland at Argentina on Feb. 24, Australia at New Zealand on April 25th (ANZAC Day in most of Oceania), and Argentina at Great Britain on May 18th.

The fixtures list shows a weird crescendo in June of 2019, when 49 of the matches are scheduled to be played in 3 1/2 weeks.

The United States’ schedule shows a particular set of problems. The first four opponents are among their toughest: Argentina, Holland, Australia, and New Zealand. Three of those four are on the road.

The States then have consecutive home matches on March 29 (Belgium) and March 31 (Olympic champion Team GB). It’s a schedule which reminds one of the current FIFA international calendar.

But after that, the USA has a four-game European swing, facing Belgium, Holland, Team GB, and Germany in the space of 20 days. This scheduling is reminiscent of the kind of long-term hockey touring that nations did during the early-to-mid 20th Century. I will be interested to see whether the States fly out for the individual games, choosing to train exclusively at Spooky Nook, or whether the Americans will set up a World Cup-esque training camp to face local European competition in between Pro League games.

The United States then has four consecutive home games in May against Australia, Argentina, China, and New Zealand. This homestand is the golden chance for the States if they are adrift in the Pro League table, as momentum (and points) can accumulate quickly.

The Applebees finish off their inaugural Pro League season in June 2019 traveling to China, then hosting Germany on June 22.

No announcement has yet been made about the nine home games — where they’ll be, ticketing, etc. But I’ll be willing to wager that the inaugural game is going to be in California, and the May homestand will be at Spooky Nook.

And I’ll go one further: if the States really need three points out of Germany on the last matchday, look for the game to be in the humidity dome of the Hampton Roads area of Eastern Virginia. I’d guess the Regional Training Center in Virginia Beach would be the obvious choice, but I think the L.R. Hill Sports Complex at Old Dominion University will be the host of the final game.

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