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Archive for April 22, 2019

April 22, 2019 — Three doors

So, we’re about 100 days out from the start of the Pan American Games in Peru.

The Pan Am Games are a competition which barely gets any U.S. television coverage, mostly because the competitions there aren’t as important as others within each individual sport’s calendar.

That is, except for sports for which the Pan Am Games serve as a qualification route to the Olympics. Such is the case in field hockey, where the U.S. women are the two-time defending champions.

Both the men’s and women’s national teams, oddly enough, are likely to face the same task this summer: win the Pan American Games gold medal and qualify for Tokyo 2020 … or not.

The “not,” for both genders, means different things, since there are are three different ways that the two teams can make the Olympics.

Of course, one of those ways is directly qualifying by winning the Pan Am title. For the U.S. women, it is a matter of finding the same form that saw the Applebees beat Argentina in two consecutive finals. But for the men, it will mean an enormous step up in class, given the fact that the States have only competed in one continental final since the start of this century.

Aside from direct continental qualification, both the U.S. men and U.S. women need to find their way into Olympic qualifiers, which are a pool of two-game playoffs. From what we’ve been able to find out, both games are to be held at the nation with the higher FIH ranking, something which could prove as an enormous, if not determining, factor in the system.

The U.S. men would have to qualify through the FIH Pro Series, which has them playing in a single eight-nations tournament against the likes of India, Japan, and South Africa. The Americans would have to finish in the top two in this Pro Series tournament in order to make it into the qualifiers. Otherwise, the States cannot rely on its world ranking (currently 25th) in order to get into the qualifiers since only the top two teams not qualifying through Continental, Pro League, and Pro Series tournaments will get into the two-legged ties.

As for the women, they are looking to qualify through the FIH Pro League, the nine-nation globetrotting competition. The States are currently sitting in last place, needing to finish in the top four in order to make it into the women’s Olympic qualifiers, which currently has 14 openings in order to make it to the Olympics since Japan’s women have already qualified twice (host and Asian champions).

So, who makes it into the women’s qualifiers? It’s only the top four from the Pro League and top two from each of the three Pro Series tournaments, meaning that there will be six openings for the next six teams in world ranking.

Since the United States is currently 12th in world ranking, it would mean that seven teams ranked 13th or below would have to to either win their continental championships, or qualify for the Olympic qualifiers that are lower-ranked than the U.S. in order for the Americans not to make the two-legged Olympic qualifiers.

One is already in: Japan, at 14th. But there could be some troubling sides who could make the Americans sweat it out for selection purposes such as Belgium, Chile, and even Canada.