Men's Water Polo Preview

After qualifying at the 2019 Pan American Games, the U.S. Men’s National Water Polo Team will likely bring one of the youngest teams in the world to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Coming off a disappointing finish at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, head coach Dejan Udovicic returns, along with team captain Jesse Smith, who is preparing for his USA Water Polo record-tying fifth Olympic Games.

After Smith, no athlete on the U.S. team has taken part in more than one Olympic Games, but team leaders have emerged in Alex Bowen, Alex Obert and Luca Cupido, all key members of Team USA since 2013. Rising stars Hannes Daube, Alex Wolf, Ben Hallock and Marko Vavic represent the best of the college game in the U.S. and are the future of Team USA. Creative attackers like Johnny Hooper and Max Irving, alongside two-way threats like Chancellor Ramirez, provide multiple options on both ends of the pool.

This group won’t be a favorite for a medal at the Tokyo Games, but much like their silver medalist Team USA predecessors in 2008, they’ll have an opportunity to upend the water polo power structure controlled by the likes of Serbia and Croatia. A mobile, fast-attacking group, the U.S. men’s team will be one of the fittest in the competition under the expert tutelage of Udovicic.

Updated on July 20, 2020. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

Rule Changes: A variety of changes are at play in the Tokyo Games. Roster sizes have been trimmed down from 13 to 12 with an additional athlete expected to be allowed to substitute in prior to each match. Also, several new rules will make their Olympic debuts, including the six-meter line, increased penalty shot opportunities and “hockey” substitutions.

Team USA Rebound: After poor performances at the Rio Games and recent world championships, Team USA has an opportunity to make an impact in Tokyo. Should they reach the medal round, they’ll have pulled a few upsets along the way, but this young, attacking squad has the firepower to do so.

Jesse Smith: The San Diego native is a father of four and a four-time Olympian. Aiming for a USA Water Polo record-tying fifth Olympic Games, Smith has long been considered one of the best defenders in the world and has played for top clubs around the globe.

Alex Bowen (Santee, California)
One of the top scorers for Team USA, Bowen has continued to improve after playing in the Hungarian professional league. He scored more than 200 goals at Stanford University and was named a First Team All-American all four years. Bowen currently plays professionally in Croatia where his Mladost club claimed the Croatian Cup.

Hannes Daube (Long Beach, California)
Daube is one of the youngest members of the team, and he is poised for a breakout appearance on the world stage. He won an NCAA championship at University of Southern California and was named a First Team All-American during his freshman season as a Trojan.

Luca Cupido (Santa Margherita, Italy)
Formerly of the Italian national team, Cupido made his Olympic debut with Team USA in 2016. He has proven to be the program’s most clutch player, not afraid of the big shot in the big moment.

Johnny Hooper (Los Angeles, California)
A rising talent for Team USA, Hooper has become an important part of the offense for the red, white and blue. With tremendous leg strength, Hooper can soar sky high in the water on both ends of the pool. Tokyo would be a special Olympic stop for Hooper who is half Japanese on his mother’s side and has made multiple visits to Japan in the past. He has his mother’s name tattooed in Japanese on his rib cage. 

Ben Hallock (Studio City, California)
Hallock is a powerful center from Stanford University who made his Olympic debut in 2016, fresh out of high school. He won the Cutino Award in 2019 as the top player in the collegiate game, and he brings a physical presence at the center position for Team USA. Last December, he guided Stanford to their first NCAA championship since 2002 and scored the game-winning goal in an overtime win against perennial favorite USC.

The USA men punched their ticket to Tokyo with a gold medal win at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. In addition to other continental qualifiers around the globe, the top two or three teams can qualify at the 2021 Olympic Qualification Tournament. The cancellation of the Asian qualifier has added uncertainty into how the final field will be decided for Tokyo. 

The U.S. men’s team will be selected through evaluation by the coaching staff and high-performance staff of USA Water Polo.

April 26-May 2, 2021: 2021 FINA Intercontinental Tournament (Indianapolis, Indiana)

• TBD, 2021: 2021 FINA World League Super Final (TBD)

• July 23 – August 4, 2021: Olympic Games (Tokyo, Japan)