The USA Field Hockey Men's National Team will participate in the BDO FIH Men's World Cup Qualifier in Quilmes, Argentina, November 14-22, 2009. The champion will continue on to the Hero Honda FIH World Cup 2010 in New Delhi, India.
"We're excited about the opportunity to experience another high-caliber world event," said Head Coach Nick Conway. "It's only going to help with the growth of our program. We're progressing and in many respects it's due to the opportunities provided at these types of tournaments. We're looking forward to it."
The USA will face some familiar competition in Quilmes, again tackling Pan American Federation foes Argentina and Chile. The Qualifier also features Belgium, Ireland and the Czech Republic.
"I think it's always good to play our continental rivals," said Conway. "Argentina, in my opinion, is the strongest site in the continent and so it's always important for us to get as many games as possible against them, and to improve each time we play them. Chile, we've had just an unbelievable rivalry really in the last few tournaments. I think both sides are reasonably evenly matched, and I think it's important that we look to get a positive result in the game, to solidify our position at the top end of our continental rankings."
The qualification system for the Hero Honda FIH World Cup 2010 is similar to the one used for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Nine teams are directly qualified through the Continental Championships, while the remaining three vacancies will be filled from three separate qualification tournaments. The other two Qualifiers will be held in Lille, France and Invercargill, New Zealand.
Conway and the coaching staff are preparing an eight week training program in preparation for the World Cup Qualifier.
"We have some things planned in the central training program that will enable us to get where we need to get from a physical point of view," said Conway. "The difference this time is that many of our players are getting international league playing experience at the moment, and so a large group of our players are going to come in to the preparatory phase with some high quality hockey under their belts."
Among the players are Sean Harris and Steven Mann, who are playing in Germany, and Rob Schilling and Andy Sheridan, are playing in England. Pat Harris is playing in Holland, which Conway described as "the highest level possible."
"My expectations are that the players will be a little bit further down the track when they arrive than they normally are, so we'll be able to do some more specific training rather than spending the majority of our time trying to get the group to a certain physical level. I think that we can do some more advanced things in the program, or at least that's the plan at this stage."
Another component of the preparation is competition against other nation squads.
"We're looking ahead to Canada coming in October," said Conway. "Both [Canada Men's National Team Coach] Alan Brahmst and I are really keen to continue building a really strong competitive relationship between the USA and Canada. We're both interested in helping each other out to try and separate ourselves from some of our other competitors in the continental regions. I think we're fortunate and grateful that both programs are in a position to want to do that and to challenge each other to get better on an event by event basis. We're looking forward to getting some really competitive games under our belt."
The USA Field Hockey Men's National Team took the silver medal at the 2009 Men's Pan American Cup, falling to champions, 2-1, Canada in extra time after a surprising run through the tournament, including a 2-1 upset of Chile in the semifinals.
"We're embracing the opportunity to get better," said Conway. "There are going to be some very difficult matches for us [at the BDO World Cup Qualifier], but hopefully once it's all said and done, we'll be able to look back at the experience that we gained in a very positive manner."
The teams already qualified for the Honda FIH World Cup 2010 are:
The format for the three World Cup Qualifiers is as it was for the Olympic Qualifiers: a six teams' single round robin competition with a final to decide which team will qualify.
The composition of the Men's FIH World Cup Qualifiers is as follows:
FIH Men's World Cup Qualifier Lille, France, 31 October-8 November 2009:
Pakistan, Japan, France, Poland, Russia, Italy
BDO FIH Men's World Cup Qualifier, Invercargill, New Zealand, 7-15 November 2009:
New Zealand, China, Malaysia, Austria, Scotland, Wales
BDO FIH Men's World Cup Qualifier, Quilmes, Argentina, 14-22 November 2009:
Belgium, Argentina, Ireland, USA, Czech Republic, Chile