What is the USA W-D-L record in Olympic Competition?

1972 1-0-4 (14th out of 16 teams)
1976 0-0-5 (10th out of 11 teams)
1984 1-1-4 (9th out of 12 teams)
1988 0-0-6 (12th out of 12 teams)
1996 2-0-4 (9th out of 12 teams)
Overall: 4-1-23

1984 2-0-3 (5th out of 6 teams)
1988 1-0-4 (7th out of 8 teams)
1992 1-0-3 (6th out of 8 teams)
1996 0-0-4 (8th out of 8 teams)
Overall: 4-0-14

Source: http://www.ihf.info/upload/matchresuts/SReihe_Olympic_Games.pdf

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How could the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams have qualified for the 2020 Olympics?

The U.S. (and all nations, for that matter) had two paths for Olympic Qualification: Either through the continental championship (The PANAM Games) or the World Championships. The simplest path, and one that the U.S. principally qualified through before, was winning the Handball Tournament at the PANAM Games. The other, more challenging path, would have been to place 1st or 2nd at an Olympic Qualification Tournament.

  • How do nations qualify for the Olympics: Link

Short Answers

  • USA Men: The USA Men would have had to have won the handball competition at the 2019 PANAM Games. They finished in 6th place and lost to the eventual champion, Argentina, 38-25 in Pool Play
  • USA Women: The USA Women have had to have won the handball competition at the 2019 PANAM Games. They finished 4th and lost to the eventual champion, Brazil, 34-9 in a semifinal match.

Here, are the specifics for how the U.S. Men and Women fared in competitions that could have led to 2020 Olympic Qualification

U.S. Men

  • Continental Qualification (2019 PANAM Games)
    • The U.S. men first successfully qualified for the PANAM Games by defeating Canada in a 2 match aggregate series Results
    • At the 2019 PANAM Games in Lima, Peru, the U.S. Men were placed in a challenging group with Argentina, Chile and Cuba. They lost to Argentina, 38-25; lost to Chile, 34-26 and beat Cuba, 26-25 to finish 3rd in their group. In consolation play they beat Peru, 22-16, but injury depleted side lost to Cuba 32-22 to finish 6th overall. Results
    • Argentina won the tournament and secured the America’s Olympic slot. Chile, which upset Brazil in the semifinals placed 2nd and was awarded an Olympic Qualification Tournament Slot
  • 2019 World Championships
    • The U.S. failed to qualify for the 2019 World Championships.
    • The path for qualification was to first finish 1-3 at the 2018 North American Championships to qualify for the Pan American Championships. The U.S., unfortunately finished 5th at this event and Cuba, Canada and Puerto Rico qualified for the final tournament. Results (It should be noted, that the U.S. roster for this 2018 tournament was significantly different from the 2019 PANAM Games roster which added several dual citizens)
    • At the 2018 Pan American Championships, Argentina, Brazil and Chile qualified for the World Championships Results
    • At the 2019 World Championships, Brazil finished 9th and secured the last Olympic Qualification Tournament slot. They later ended up beating Chile in an Olympic Qualification tournament to secure an Olympic slot
  • Summary: In order to have qualified for the Olympics, the U.S. Men would have to have had to have beaten Chile or Argentina to reach the PANAM Games semifinals. Then they would likely have had to beat Brazil in a semifinal, then beat Argentina in the gold medal match. So, basically the U.S. would have to pull off back to back victories over teams that are about 12 goals better than they are. Qualification via a World Championship is an even tougher route.

USA Women

  • Continental Qualification (2019 PANAM Games)
    • The U.S. Women first successfully qualified for the PANAM Games by defeating Canada in a 2 match aggregate series Results
    • At the 2019 PANAM Games in Lima, Peru, the U.S. Women were placed in a group with Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Peru.. They lost to Argentina, 26-15; Beat the Dominican Republic, 26-22 and beat Peru, 34-26 and beat Cuba, 29-11 to finish 2rd in the group to qualify for the Semifinals. In the semifinals they were overwhelmingly beaten by the eventual champions, Brazil, 34-9. In the bronze medal match they narrowly lost to Cuba, 24-23. Results
    • Brazil secured the America’s Olympic slot and Argentina was awarded an Olympic Qualification Tournament Slot. At the Olympic Qualification Tournament Argentina was soundly beaten by Spain and Sweden. Results
  • 2019 World Championships Qualification
    • The U.S. failed to qualify for the 2019 World Championships.
    • The path for qualification was to finish 1st at the 2019 North American Championships. At this tournament the U.S. finished 3rd in Group play, narrowly missing out on a semifinal berth due to a lower goal differential than 2n place Greenland. Results (Note: this was the first time that N. American World Championship qualification was separate from S. America.)
    • Cuba won the tournament to qualify for the World Championships. At the World Championships Cuba finished 21st and would have had to have placed 7th in order to qualify for an Olympic Qualification Tournament.
  • Summary: Qualifying for the Olympics would have required beating Brazil at the PANAM Games. Brazil is currently a top 10 team and the U.S. hasn’t come close to beating them since a drawn match at the 2003 PANAM Games.

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Are there any youth handball programs or competitions in the U.S.?

Yes. There are currently a handful of youth programs and competitions in the U.S. See below for more information.

  • San Francisco Bay Area:
    • SF Cal Heat: The SF Cal Heat Team Handball club has a youth team and hosts Middle School and High School Leagues in the Bay Area. More info: Link
    • San Francisco THB: The SF Team Handball Club has a youth team that participates in Cal Heat’s league and practices year round. More information: Link
  • Chicago Area:
    • Team Handball Academy: Link
  • New York City
    • USA Team Handball has a partnership with New York Edge and there are plans to incorporate team handball into their after school and summer school programs: Link
  • Montgomery County, Maryland
    • Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland play team handball as a corollary sport to provide more opportunities for students not involved in traditional varsity sports. More information: Link

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Where can I find information on U.S. Team Handball Club Rankings and Results?

Current season U.S. Club ranking and results can be found at the Northeast Team Handball League (NTHL) website: Link

Some Wikipedia pages have historical results from the annual USA Team Handball National Championships. The USA Championships are typically played over a 3 day weekend tournament.

  • USA National Championships Home Page: Link
  • Men’s Elite Club Championship: Link
  • Men’s Open Club Championship: Link
  • Women’s Open Club Championship: Link
  • Men’s Collegiate Club Championship: Link
  • Women’s Collegiate Club Championship: Link

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What impact has the name confusion for Handball/Team Handball had on the sports development in the US?

A huge, negative impact. Development of any new sport can be challenging, but the additional semantic challenge Team Handball has due to simply having the same name as an unrelated sport has added another layer of difficulty. While a semantic issue might not seem significant at first, the fact that virtually everyone in the US who is introduced to the sport, must first be explained what the sport is and that it is not the Handball they think it is a difficult hurdle to cross. In the USA, the sport is often described as “soccer with your hands” or “water polo without water” or “lacrosse without sticks” to help newcomers visualize the sport. Still even with these descriptions many still can not conceptualize the sport because the vision of a little ball being slapped off a wall is too engrained into their brain.

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How are the National Champions determined in the United States?

A 3 day weekend open club tournament organized by the National Federation is held in the spring of each year, usually in late April. Teams are usually split into an Elite, 1st Division and 2nd Division, but the format has varied from year to year. Depending on the number of clubs there are 1 or 2 Women’s Divisions. For the past several years there has also been a separate collegiate championship conducted on a separate weekend at a different location.

What is the IHF Trophy competition and what Nations are Eligible to Participate in them?

The IHF Trophy is a world-wide competition organized for developing handball nations. As currently structured the competition is conducted in phases with competition taking place in sub-continent, continent and inter-continent phases. The competition is also age based with separate competitions for Youth (U19) Men, Jr (U21) Men, Youth (U18) Women, and Jr (U20) Women. The timing of the competition is structured to parallel the existing Youth and Jr competitions with the Inter-Continental Jr Champion qualifying for the Jr World Championships.

  • IHF Inter-Continental Trophy Results (Wikipedia): Link

Note: The North American & Caribbean Handball Confederation (CACHC) is is currently using the IHF Trophy as its Youth and Jr Championships. The winner of the NACHC IHF Trophy (Continental Phase) also qualifies for the World Championships.

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Why has the USA become less competitive and failed to qualify for recent Olympics?

3 basic factors can be attributed to this decline and poor performance.
1) USA athletes often first start playing the game in their early 20’s after their career in other sports have ended. While a simple game in principle, mastering the finer techniques of the game can take years. The USA has always been at a technical disadvantage against top sides.
2) The National Teams have been less successful in recruiting top, natural athletes since the 1996 Olympics. This is, of course, an opinion, but most long term observers of USA Team Handball would generally agree with this statement.
3) Other nations in the Pan-American region have improved their programs substantially. Brazil, and to a lesser extent, Argentina, have dramatically improved their programs from top to bottom. In the 80’s and 90’s a team of great, raw athletes could be recruited, assembled, taught the game and have a reasonable expectation that they could beat the other Pan-American Teams that used the same model. As recent results would attest, this is no longer possible.

Has the USA ever been competitive in International play?

The USA has been more competitive in the past, with the high water mark probably being the 1984 Olympic Games. The Men’s team placed 9th, but lost by no more than 3 goals in their 6 matches. The Women’s team placed 5th, but would have won a bronze medal, if they could have turned a 1 goal loss to Germany into a victory in the pool play competition.

Both the Men’s and Women’s National Teams continued to have a measure of respectability for the rest of the 1980’s through the 1996 Olympic Games, occasionally garnering victories in Friendly competitions like the Goodwill Games against European teams. In World Championship and Olympic competition the USA has repeatedly come up short. In particular, the USA men, have the dubious distinction of an 0-0-25 record in World Championship competition. Following the 1996 games, International competitiveness dropped dramatically with losses of 20 or more goals against the top teams becoming commonplace.

USA Men’s National Team Results at Every IHF World Championship: Link

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