Lauren Moyer celebrates at the Pan American Games on Aug. 9, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
The odds of the U.S. field hockey team making the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 weren’t great heading into Saturday, but Team USA did all it could to make it happen.
After losing to India in game one of a two-game qualifier by a score of 5-1 on Friday, the U.S. needed to win Saturday by four goals just to get itself in to a shootout. The Americans needed to win by five goals to come out ahead of India in the aggregate score. And they nearly pulled it off, winning Saturday by a score of 4–1, just one goal shy of forcing a shootout.
Team USA gave itself a chance by getting on the board right away. The U.S. scored its first goal just five minutes into the match and jumped out to a 4-0 lead by halftime. Amanda Magadan had two goals while Olympian Kathleen Sharkey and Alyssa Parker chipped in one each for Team USA.
After a scoreless third, it was India that scored the only goal of the fourth in the 49th minute. Team USA had spells of possession and pushed for a fifth goal, but wasn’t able to finish the comeback.
It was a heartbreaking result for a U.S. team hoping for its fourth trip in a row to the Games and looking to build off a fifth-place finish in Rio in 2016, matching its best-ever result since winning a bronze medal in its debut in 1984.
The two-game Olympic qualifying format is new this year. The U.S. locked down its Olympic entries by winning the Pan American Games the past two times, but after finishing third this year, the Americans landed in the qualifiers along with a handful of other nations.
Seven teams will win their spots through this method to join the nations that already qualified: host country Japan plus continental championship winners Netherlands, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa. China, Australia and Spain have already qualified through the two-game format heading into this weekend’s games.
In addition to the U.S. and India, Chile was at Great Britain, Italy was at Germany and Canada was at Ireland this weekend with all trying to become one of the 12 qualifiers.