The IHF has awarded hosting rights to the U.S. for both Youth and Jr IHF Trophy Competitions. The tourneys will be staged simultaneously at the new Lifezone Team Handball Academy in West Dundee, Illinois from 7-13 May. The Lifezone Team Handball Academy is the first handball program/facility devoted primarily to youth development in the U.S.
The IHF Trophy Competitions were established by the IHF to provide developing handball nations competitive matches in a formal setting. The U.S. has been competitive in these tournaments, particularly on the Men’s side having won both the North American region and this past spring the Pan American title.
For the 2018-2019 cycle the IHF has expanded the program to include both “Youth” and “Jr” competitions. The Jr competition will be limited to athletes 21 or younger (born in 1998) or later, while the Youth competition will be limited to athletes 19 or younger (born in 2000) or later. (The age requirements are intended to match the 2nd year of the competition (2019))
The zones for the competition have also changed with the U.S. now competing vs Canada, Martinique, Barbados, Dominica, Barbados and Haiti. Based on past tournament performance the pre-tournament favorites are the U.S., Canada and Martinique as the remaining nations are relative newcomers to the sport.
The other North American Zone includes Mexico, Puerto Rico and additional Caribbean nations. There are also 2 South American zones and a definitive qualification format has yet to be announced. Because of the proposed split to the Pan-American Region it’s possible that the North America and South America regions will have separate championships. If that’s the case it’s possible that 2 nations from each of the North American Zones will advance to a continental championship with the winner of that tournament advancing to the Inter-Continental Championship.
The U.S. has several players from previous campaigns that will be available, but will need to find some replacements for several athletes on the Jr team that have aged out. Tryouts are scheduled for San Francisco, Auburn and the Chicago area. Athletes that can’t make the scheduled tryouts, including dual citizens living abroad, can also apply to participate. More information is available at the USA Team Handball website.
The location of these tournaments at the Lifezone Team Handball Academy in West Dundee, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago) provides a great marketing and showcase opportunity for this new program. Great credit for putting together a winning bid in a short period of time goes to the Academy’s Director, Craig Rot.