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Archive for January 25, 2022

Jan. 25, 2022 — Why you should be paying rapt attention to what is going on at the Pan American Cup

The North American qualifying competition for the 2022 FIH World Cups for both men and women are taking place in Santiago, Chile.

And with the end of pool play, we’re seeing something that we’ve never seen before. The United States men’s and women’s national field hockey teams now stand one win away from qualification after winning their respective pools.

It’s a remarkable turnaround from what happened during the last cycle when the Pan American Cup was held at Spooky Nook. Then, the United States women finished third and took the last possible berth, while the U.S. men were also third, but only two teams qualified from this hemisphere.

Four years has changed a lot within the U.S. system. The U.S. women’s national team pretty much turned over its entire roster after losing the two-game, total-goal series against India in late 2019, failing to qualify for Tokyo 2020. Too, the WNT left the Home of Hockey in Pennsylvania to go to Charlotte, a move based on the promise of growth in the infrastructure of sports science in the region as well as growth in the sport in the Tar Heel State.

Meanwhile the U.S. men have remained largely in California. But on the men’s side, there seems to be a high quality of imported players who have declared for the United States, as well as veteran men’s players who have paid their dues in a sport which may have rejected their services here at home.

So, here’s the deal. The U.S. women only need to win one of their next two games to get to the World Cup. The first test comes Wednesday with a game against Chile. Five years ago at the Nook, Chile had beaten the U.S. by a score of 4-3. This was the game that Amanda Magadan had tied with two minutes left to play, only to surrender a goal by Denise Krimerman in the dying seconds.

The men, however, must beat the winner of tomorrow’s Chile-Mexico game to make the men’s World Cup, a competition for which the U.S. has never qualified. Indeed, over the last century, the U.S. has never won its way into an FIH world-level tournament; it has instead made it to tournaments like the 1956 Olympics and the 2011 Champions Challenge II on world ranking or as host (Los Angeles 1932 and 1984 and Atlanta 1996).

It’s heady and unexpected stuff for a sport which has been forever in the Olympic hinterlands. Perhaps this is the start of something great.