As the calendar flips to June, summer Olympic sports are in the full swing of the season. The next four weeks are full of international tournaments, national championships and world championships as athletes look to set themselves up in the early stages of the road to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Here are 10 storylines to keep an eye on this month:
1) Which Softball Power Will Reign Supreme At The Women’s College World Series?
The 2017 Women’s College World Series is the first since softball was re-added to the Olympic program beginning in 2020, so all games take on a heightened importance. The eight-team field is stacked with impressive teams: Oregon, UCLA, Washington, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, LSU, Baylor and Florida, led by USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Kelly Barnhill. Double-elimination bracket play and a best-of-three championship series are held from June 1-7.
2) A Revamped Men’s Volleyball Squad Heads To FIVB World League
Coming off of its bronze medal at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, the U.S. men’s volleyball team is missing several familiar faces on its FIVB World League roster. Reid Priddy is focusing on beach volleyball, David Lee, Matt Anderson and Max Holt are taking time off and Murphy Troy retired. However, the U.S. still looks to feature prominently at the event. Currently ranked No. 2 in the FIVB World Rankings, Team USA last won World League in 2014 and finished fifth in 2016. The competition takes place over the course of a month beginning on June 2; Team USA’s first opponents in pool play are Serbia, Canada and Belgium.
3) The Road To Russia Continues For The U.S. Men’s Soccer Team
The U.S. men’s soccer team has had a difficult journey to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, currently sitting in fourth in the CONCACAF Hexagonal with a 1-1-2 record. This makes their next qualifying matches absolutely critical, as they take on Trinidad & Tobago on June 8 in Commerce City, Colorado, and Mexico on June 11 in Mexico City. The top three finishers in the Hex automatically qualify for the World Cup while the fourth-place team advances to inter-confederation playoffs to try to keep its hopes alive. With the Hex just reaching its halfway point with these two matches, there’s still plenty of time to move up in the standings, but the U.S. men won’t want to wait to put the hammer down.
4) Will The Water Polo Super Final See Resurgence From The U.S. Men And Women?
The FINA Water Polo World League comes to an end in June, and both the U.S. men’s and women’s water polo teams will be competing in the Super Final. Both teams earned silver at their respective FINA Intercontinental Tournaments to lock in their berths to the Super Final, though this means very different things for each.
For the men, who placed 10th in Rio, the Super Final, held in Ruza, Russia from June 20-25, will be a chance to continue their momentum. At the 2016 event, they finished second for their first Super Final podium in eight years. For the women, the Intercontinental Tournament was their first major tournament loss in nearly four years. They had won the previous three intercontinental tournaments and Super Finals, the 2014 World Cup, 2015 world championships and 2016 Olympic Games. They will look to rebound from this unexpected loss in Shanghai on June 6-11.
5) Jordan Burroughs Looks To Continue His Dominance At World Team Trials
Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs returns to action at the USA Wrestling Men's Freestyle World Team Trials, held in Lincoln, Nebraska on June 9-10. Burroughs, one of the greatest wrestlers in American history, will vie to make his seventh consecutive U.S. team. He will be joined by Olympic teammates J’den Cox, Frank Molinaro, Daniel Dennis, Kyle Snyder and Tervel Dlagnev, all looking to represent the U.S. at the 2017 world championships in Paris this coming August.
6) Johnson And Spieth Face Off Again At The U.S. Open
The second of golf’s four major championships, the U.S. Open heads to Erin Hills, Wisconsin on June 12-18. The field includes Olympians Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson, along with Jordan Spieth and reigning champion Dustin Johnson. In 2015, Johnson lost to Spieth by one stroke. In last year’s dramatic finale, Johnson erased a four-stroke deficit in the final round. Johnson looks to be the first back-to-back champion since Curtis Strange in 1988-89.
7) World Championship Berths Are On The Line At USATF Outdoor Championships
The USATF Outdoor Championships return to Sacramento, California, on June 22-25 as part of the Team USA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast. The top track and field athletes in the country will vie for both national titles and spots on Team USA for the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London. The U.S. track and field team is one of the most difficult in the world to make: among the competitors in Sacramento will be Olympic medalists Christian Taylor, Tori Bowie, Sam Kendricks, Justin Gatlin, Michelle Carter and Allyson Felix.
8) Steven Lopez Goes For (Another) Gold At The World Taekwondo Championships
Steven Lopez is the most decorated taekwondo athlete of all time, with three Olympic medals to his name, and his five world championship gold medals are the most of any athlete. The king of taekwondo will go for gold number six as the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships kick off in Muju, South Korea, June 24-30. Also competing are 2016 Olympians Stephen Lambdin, Paige McPherson and Jackie Galloway, who won bronze at the Grand Prix Final in December.
9) What Will Katie Ledecky Do At The Phillips 66 National Championships?
The third event in the Team USA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast, the Phillips 66 National Championships will be held in Indianapolis on June 27-July 1 with world championship berths on the line for the country's best swimmers. But the most intriguing element in the pool is Katie Ledecky, the most dominant swimmer in modern history. A trip to the world championships seems all but assured, and world records are never out of reach with Ledecky at her best. Could more fall in Indianapolis? Will she extend her reign of success to the 200-meter freestyle, or even the 100? Nothing is off limits.
10) Laura Zeng Looks To Defend Her Title At The USA Gymnastics Championships
The country’s best acrobatic, rhythmic and trampoline & tumbling gymnasts will descend on Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the USA Gymnastics Championships from June 29-July 1. Laura Zeng, the most accomplished U.S. rhythmic gymnast in history, will attempt to win her third consecutive national title after placing 11th in her Olympic debut and tying for the best American finish ever. Last May, she became the first American to win a medal at a world cup event when she took bronze in both hoop and ribbon. Still just a junior in high school, Zeng has the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 firmly in her sights as she kicks off this next Olympic quadrennial.