Is it “Still the Battle for L.A.” if only Four Athletes Live anywhere near Los Angeles?

This isn’t the first time I’ve pointed out some “problems” with our U.S. club rosters. (See Link Link) Honestly it’s getting a little old googling and checking social media sites, but today’s battle between two “Southern California” club teams at the North American & Caribbean Club Championships got me wondering… Just how many athletes on these two teams actually live in the Los Angeles area?

Well, subject to my standard disclaimer (social media websites and LinkedIn profiles aren’t always accurate), that answer is four athletes. As in 4 out of 31 athletes.

There are multiple issues with these rosters that we should be concerned with. I’ll go through some of them again:

  • Nationality: The fact that they are just eight Americans playing on these American club teams is problematic. I, for one, would like to see more Americans playing. I like to think that just about anyone would like to see that. In particular, younger American athletes who can really benefit from particpating is a competition like this. And, it’s nice to see a few that even fit that demographic. But, I understand why it’s the exception. Teams want to win and right now better non-American athletes are available and allowed to play with no restriction for U.S. club teams.
  • Residency: The fact that there are only four athletes on these two teams that live anywhere near where these team say they are located is… crazy, ludicrous and silly. Let me repeat… it is crazy, ludicrous and silly. We are not talking about a couple or a few athletes to round out the roster… Not even just saying it’s around half the team. No. We are talking about the overwhelming majority of the athletes. 27 out of 31. These athletes don’t practice together. Some probably just met each other. 14 out of 31 don’t even live in the United States! Again… This is crazy, ludicrous and silly.
  • Competitive Fairness. The addition of this many athletes to rosters defeats the spirit of competition. I guess every club is free to recruit players to improve their chances. But, it kind of goes against the concept of a club championship. Instead it’s become more of an all star team recruitment competition.

Who’s to Blame?

Well, here’s my assessment:

  • The athletes? No, absolutely not. As, I’ve stated before… Offer me the chance to compete in a nice little tournament with the winning team getting a free trip to Cairo to play the best teams in the world. My response is, “Where do I sign?” Or, as I think is probably the case in most instances… “Sure, I’ll pay my way to New Jersey for this opportunity.”
  • The Clubs? Maybe, a little bit. Nobody is forcing them to create all star rosters. Nobody is forcing them to tell their locally based athletes… “Sorry, we’re going with player X instead of you. Maybe next time.” It’s something these clubs want to do. Maybe a club should internally decide like San Francisco CalHeat did that this isn’t really how they want to go about things. Maybe… But, if you aren’t breaking any rules and the rules are such that you can drive a freight train through them. Then why not? Blow the whistle and go. Full steam ahead.
  • The NACHC? Yes, there’s some blame here. It’s a NACHC competition, so the NACHC is responsible for whatever rules and regulations are in place. That said, they are a newish, all volunteer organization with a lot of challenges. Roster regulations probably aren’t high on their list of things to get done. But, hopefully as they get grounded as an organization they will take a closer look at this competition and assess whether it’s currently stuctured to meet organiational goals.
  • The IHF? Yes, and I would argue that they are the most responsible. As I wrote in this commentary about the 2023 CalHeat Super Globe roster the IHF’s good intentions to support club development around the world has had major unintended consequences. Unless they step in with more restrictions on club rosters I suspect recruitment might just get even crazier. Who knows, maybe next time it will make more sense to just play the NACHC club championship in Europe. It would save on air fare and the jerseys could just be shipped to whereever it’s being held.

USA Handball Talk (Episode 22): Wow, there’s a lot of Handball Going on

JD and John discuss the US Handball Union Vegas tourney, the Men’s and Women’s World Beach Handball Championships, the U20 Women’s Championships and the recent resignation of two USA Team Handball Board of Directors.

Here’s a summary with links to some of the items we discussed:

  • John’s commentary on USA Handball “National” Championships: Link
  • 2024 World Beach Handball Championship Information Page: Link
  • Ebiye Udo-Udoma, the Handball Ninja, commented on the episode’s YouTube page, that sets is the most common terminology used for beach handball. Additionally, the first two sets are sometimes informally referred to as “halves.”
  • The 22 shots (11 round shootout) at the 2017 U17 EHF Men’s final (queued up to the mentioned saves): Link
  • 2024 Women’s Jr World Handball Championship: Link
  • Side note: JD and John thought the 55.5 goals Over/Under for the USA-UZB was off. It was, but not in the direction we thought. The final score was UZB 42, USA 25
  • John obliquely referenced the infamous Cesson-Rennes – Montpellier match betting scandal
  • USA Team Handball announcement on Board of Director resignations: Link
  • John’s commentary from the last time there was a short handed Board of Directors in 2013: Link

Watch on YouTube or listen/download the mp3 file at the top of the page

If you have any suggestions for future topics that you would like us to consider please let us know on social media.

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And, be sure to check out the podcast archive with interviews and great  handball discussion going all the way back to 2006: Link


2024 Women’s Jr World Championship Info Page

The USA Jr Women’s National Team is competing in the 2024 Women’s Junior World Handball Championship. Here are the team roster, schedule, results, and links to streaming and other information pages

Women’s Competition

  • IHF Official Page: Link
  • Wikipedia Competition Page: Link

USA Women (Schedule, Results, Streaming) (All Times US ET)


2024 Beach Handball World Championships Information Page

The USA Men’s and Women’s Beach Handball National Teams are competing in the 2024 IHF Beach Handball World Championships. Here are the team rosters, schedule, results, and links to streaming and other information pages

Men’s Competition

  • IHF Official Page: Link
  • Wikipedia Competition Page: Link

USA Men (Roster, Schedule, Results, Streaming) (All Times US ET)

  • IHF USA Team Page: Link
  • Consolation (9-16th) Knockout Tournament with Consolation
    • QF: USA vs China 0-2 (18-19) (22-24) Details Video
    • SF(13-16): USA vs Oman 2-1 (21-29) (23-22) (10-7) Details Video
    • 13th Place: USA vs Australia 2-0 (25-20 (25-20) Details Video

Women’s Competition

  • IHF Official Page: Link
  • Wikipedia Competition Page: Link

USA Women (Schedule, Results, Streaming) (All Times US ET)

  • IHF USA Team Page: Link
  • Consolation (9-16th) Knockout Tournament with Consolation
    • QF: USA vs Norway 0-2 (14-17) (14-24) Details Video
    • SF(13-16): USA vs Australia 0-2 (16-23) (13-22) Details Video
    • 15th Place: USA vs Puerto Rico 0-2 (12-15) (16-19) Details Video

Deja Vu, All Over Again: Norway, Portugal, Brazil and USA to Replay the 2023 Gjensidige Cup

The USA Men found out who and where they will play their group play matches at the 2025 Handball World Championships and due to a strange twist of fate it will be deja vu, all over again. This is because they will play Norway, Portugal and Brazil in Norway… just like they did in a warmup tourney prior to the 2023 Handball World Championships. This time, however, the matches will be played in Baerum (a suburb of Oslo), instead of Trondheim and these matches will count.

What are the chances of that? Well, it would be 1 out of 6 (Austria and Croatia (Pot 2) were already assigned to Porec and Zagreb) x (1 out of 8) x (1 out of 8) or 1 out of 384 or a 0.26% chance of occuring.

Tough Draw for the U.S.

As one of the lower ranked teams at the World Championships just about any draw is a tough draw. Realistically, beating any of the teams from pot 1 or pot 2 was always going to be a longshot, but there were some teams in pot 3 that the U.S. would match up well with.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Brazil is one of those teams and since they have good familiarity with the U.S. program they aren’t a team we can sneak up on. At the 2023 PANAM Games we lost to Brazil 40-27 (23-13) in the semifinals and at the 2023 Gjensidige Cup we lost 27-22 (12-10). A closer match, but also a friendly.

Further, having played both Norway and Portugal also at the 2023 Gjensidige cup we won’t be sneaking up on them either. Both of those sides won’t be surprised to find out that the U.S. actually has some guys that can play. They already know that and will even have some head to head match video to review as a reminder.

2023 Gjensidige Cup Final Standings

2023 Gjensidige Cup: Wikipedia (includes all results and links to match reports)

Beyond Group Play

Should the U.S. pull off an upset in Preliminary Group play they will stay in Oslo where their likely Main Round opponents from Group F would be Sweden, Spain and the winner of the Japan-Chile match.

If they finish 4th in Group E, however, they will head to Porec, Croatia for the President’s Cup play where they will play the 4th place finishers from Groups F, G and H. These opponents, barring a rash of upsets will likely be the losers of these preliminary round matchups

  • Japan vs Chile
  • Cuba vs Cape Verde
  • Argentina vs Bahrain

The potential for a mini Pan American group (USA, Chile, Cuba, Argentina) exists, but that remains to be seen. No team wants to go to the President’s Cup, but on the upside it could give the U.S. another crack at Chile, who they narrowly lost to in the bronze medal match at the PANAM Games and an opportunity to play NACHC rivals Cuba.


2025 Men’s World Championships Draw: Best and Worst Cases for the U.S.; Plus a Little What if?

The draw for the 2025 Men’s World Championships will take place tomorrow, 29 May at 1:30 PM (US ET) / 7:30 PM (CET). It will probably be streamed live and I will place the link here when it’s available.

The USA Men are in pot 4 and here’s some best and worst case analysis for who might be drawn into their group

  • Pot 1: It doesn’t matter for pot 1. The USA will be a huge underdog no matter which of these 8 teams they end up playing in Group Play.
  • Pot 2: The best outcome here would clearly be Italy. The Italians won their qualification play-off match vs Montenegro in convincing fashion, but it’s still their first WC in 18 years. The U.S. would be underdogs against Italy, but an upset victory would certainly be possible. The Czech Republic is probably the next weakest side, but a victory over them or any of the other teams in pot 2 is still unlikely.
  • Pot 3: This will be the key draw for the U.S. as the group match vs this opponent will likely determine who moves on to the main round and who goes to the President’s Cup. Here’s my take (in order) as to who the U.S. preferred options are
    • Cuba: The best option is clearly Cuba. The U.S. Men lost to Cuba at the 2024 NORCA Championships, but that was mostly a B side. The U.S. Men’s top side has beaten Cuba the last two times they played each other (2023 PANAM Games and and 2022 NORCA).
    • Algeria: Algeria were the runners-up in African qualification, but usually they are the 3rd or 4th best team from Africa and are similar in quality to the Moroccan side the U.S. beat 28-27 at the 2023 WC
    • Japan: Japan had built up a pretty solid team for the 2020 Olympics, but they’ve slipped a bit since then.
    • Qatar: Qatar still has some naturalized citizens playing for them, but they aren’t as strong as they used to be
    • North Macedonia: North Macedonia or Italy are arguably the weakest European teams at this World Championship.
    • Poland: On paper Poland should be a better team, but results wise they have been a disappointment recently. If there ever was a European team that could slip up and lose against a team like the USA, its this Poland team.
    • Argentina: The U.S. led most of the 1st half vs Argentina last year at the PANAM Games only to end up losing 28-14. While it’s possible the U.S. could put two good halves together it would be tough to come out on top. Further, the Argentinians know what the U.S. is capable of, so a surprise victory is not possible.
    • Brazil: The U.S. has played Brazil close at times, but hasn’t come close to a win. And, again, just like Argentina, the U.S. can’t sneak up on Brazil.

Best and Worst Possible Draws

Here’s my take on the best and worse possible draws for the U.S.

  • Best Possible: Slovenia, Italy, Cuba
  • Worst Possible: France, Croatia, Brazil

What If… the USA had won the 2024 NORCA and had Potential Opponents from Pot 4?

The U.S. chose to send essentially a B side to the North American & Caribbean Championship while an A side played Norway and France in two friendly matches. The U.S. could afford to do this as they had already been awarded a wild card for the World Championships. This resulted in Cuba (the NORCA Champions) being placed in Pot 3 and the U.S. being placed in Pot 4 as a wild card. If, the U.S. had sent their A team to NORCA and had won the Championship the U.S. would have been placed in Pot 3 and the Pot 4 wild card would have likely been assigned to a European side like Serbia.

Here’s some top level “What if?” analysis of who the USA would have potentially played under that scenario. The USA would have been big underdogs to Switzerland and Serbia, moderate underdogs to Bahrain and Tunisia, close to a pick em vs Chile and Cape Verde, and probably favorites over Kuwait and Guinea.

So overall, there would have been better opportunities to get to the Main Round from Pot 3 than Pot 4. Not guaranteed, of course. The U.S. could still draw Cuba or Algeria from Pot 3 and if they hadn’t gone the Wild Card route they could have ended up playing Switzerland or Serbia.

From a big picture viewpoint, however, I think the U.S. still made the right call to send a B team to the NORCA Championships. The experience gained playing France and Norway was worth more than having better odds to reach the Main Round. And, at the same time the U.S. was able to evaluate several athletes on the B team and assess their potential for future competitions.


USA Handball Talk (Episode 2): John… I think I’m having a moment

This week’s topics:

  • 1996 Handball Olympian, Denny Fercho suffered a massive stroke a year ago and is making great progress with his recovery. Please consider a donation to help with his medical and therapy bills at this Go Fund Me Campaign: Link
  • A very brief recap of this past weekend’s IHandball Tryout and the Samala Cup
  • A review of the 2023 Jr Women IHF Trophy/NORCA Championship
    • Video of the USA-Mexico Match: Link
  • A recap of the 2023 IHF Women’s Handball Championships
  • A discussion on the current state of the USA Women talent pool, how it will likely change as we get closer to the 2028 Olympics, and the apparent lack of a plan to take that future fully into consideration

Watch or listen/download the mp3 file at the top of the page

If you have any suggestions for future topics, a title for our podcast or have some intro music you would like us to consider please let us know on social media.

Don’t miss an episode:

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And, be sure to check out the podcast archive with interviews and great handball discussion going all the way back to 2006: Link


2023 Women’s Handball World Championships (Streaming and Information Links)

The 2023 IHF World Women’s Handball Championship will start this Wednesday, 29 November and will conclude on Sunday, 17 December. Here is some information on streaming, how to follow the tournament, and who the sports betting sites have favored to win the tournament and premliminary groups.

Streaming / TV

Your options for watch the 2023 Handball World Championships will vary depending on where you live. Some nations will be able to watch all the matches on the IHF YouTube Channel while other nations will have all or some of the matches available on a TV Channel and/or streaming to which the rights have been sold. This IHF article outlines how to watch in each nation: Link

  • Nations without a TV Contract: IHF Competitions YouTube Channel: Link
  • USA: ESPN will be airing up to 4 matches each day on their Watch ESPN platform which is accessible to anyone who subscribes to ESPN via Cable, Satellite or Streaming Service. (Important Note: This does not require an ESPN+ subscription. Further it will not be available on ESPN+. To watch the Handball WC you will need a traditional ESPN Subscription)

    Watch ESPN can be watched on your TV, laptop or phone. Personally, I watch it via my ESPN app on my Roku, but there are multiple options. Typically, the first time you go to watch something, you will be asked to verify your account so have your username and password ready.

    Matches are now being populated on the schedule page and can be found under the ESPN3 Channel. If past history is a guide ESPN will also add a handball logo and a 2023 WC logo to help find the matches. Additionally, matches will likely show up on the main page, but only a few minutes before the match starts.
    • ESPN Handball Schedule: Link
  • Canada: There is no TV network so all matches should be available on the IHF YouTube page: Link (Note: This makes Canada a good VPN choice)
  • VPN: Based on previous WCs, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) will likely provide access to matches that are not available on ESPN. For more information on how to use VPN check this article out: Link
  • Spam Sites: You’ve surely seen the multitude of social media postings inviting you to watch the match on their “free” service. (These folks are relentless with their spamming) Don’t even bother with these sites. They typically will ask you to download a video player on your computer. Trust me… you don’t want that app on your computer and in all likelihood they won’t even have the match. Go with the provider in your country or VPN.

How to Follow the Competition

  • Competition Wikipedia Page: Link (For simple, easy to find schedule, results and standings Wikipedia is the place to go)
  • IHF Competition Page: Link (Official Stats and match summaries)
  • Host Nations Official Site: Link

Wagering Information

  • Draftkings World Championships Odds: Link
  • Bet365 World Championships Odds: Link
  • Futures Odds (Draftkings) (To win before the tournament start)
  • Odds to Win Preliminary Groups (Bet365)

Sorry… I Can’t Get Very Excited about Eclectic Mercenary Team Victories at the IHF Super Globe

San Francisco CalHeat recently picked up the first ever USA and North American club victory in IHF Super Globe history as they took down the University of Queensland, the Oceania representive, 27-22. This was celebrated on the IHF and USA Team Handball websites as an historic first ever victory. Is it still historic if only a handful of the atletes are American citizens and only 1/3 of the athletes on the roster live anywhere near San Francisco? Maybe… but I can’t get very excited about it.

Before I explain fully why I feel that way I think it’s appropriate to identify a few caveats and a few realizations that I’m a bit of an old timer hyprocite. Here they are:

  • I doubt that SF CalHeat and several other U.S. clubs are breaking any IHF, NACHC or USA Team Handball regulations. (Maybe those regulations should be changed, but that’s a whole other issue.)
  • Boosting club prospects by bringing in mercenary athletes from other locales is nothing new. I’ve even done it myself, inlcluding the 2004 USA National Championships when I played for the Atlanta based Condors while I was living in France. (CalHeat is taking this practice, however, to new extremes)
  • I don’t blame athletes for jumping at the opportunity to play in an IHF Super Globe. Heck, I wonder how crazy recruitment would have gotten back in my day if a similar opportunity had existed.
  • A critique of this mercenary team doesn’t denigrate great CalHeat initiatives like their support to youth development

So with these caveats out of the way let’s take a deep dive into the roster

The SF CalHeat 2023 IHF Super Globe Roster

The information below was compiled from the official IHF Super Globe roster, IHF Super Globe stats, social media accounts, google searches and other sources. I’m not 100% certain as to where everyone lives and there might be some errors. (Translation: everything you find on the internet isn’t always accurate)

  • Left Wings
    • Jorge Prieto, Spanish, 3/8 shots <Lives in Spain, plays for CB Torrelavega>
    • Mikio Tada, Japanese, 1/4 shots <Lives in SF Bay Area>
    • Drew Bradley, American, 0/3 shots <Lives in SF Bay Area>
  • Left Backs
    • Ole Olsen, Norwegian, 13/34 shots <Lives in Norway, attended SF State for a semester>
    • Hjalte Clausen, Danish, 1/3 shots <Lives in Minnesota>
    • Max Paulus, German, 1/1 shots <Lives in SF Bay Area>
  • Center Backs
    • Eloy Rubio, Spanish, 6/16 shots < Lives in Spain, previously lived in SF Bay Area>
    • Kasper Ogendahl, Danish, 9/17 shots <Lives in SF Bay Area>
  • Righ Backs
    • Felix Raff, German, 22/42 shots <Lives in Germany, Plays for HSG Leinfelden-Echterdingen
    • Daniel Eggert, Danish, 7/13 shots <Lives in Germany>
  • Right Wings
    • Paul Assfalg, German, 7/11 shots <Lives in Houston>
    • Yannick Te Morsche, German, 0/4 shots <Lives in Germany, Plays for TuS Lintfort>
  • Circle Runners
    • Drew Donlin, American, 14/24 shots <Lives in Los Angeles>
    • Benjamin Geisser, Swiss, 10/17 shots <Lives in Switzerland, Played for St Otmar, now retired>
    • Jonathan Garcia, American, 2/3 shots <Lives in SF Bay Area>
  • Goalkeepers
    • Lucas Kroger, German, 22/92, saves <Lives in Germany, Lived in Miami previously>
    • Fredrik Jacobsen, Norwegian, 25/61 saves <Lives in Norway, Attended Cal Berkeley>
    • Mohamed Balti, American, 1/21 saves <Lives in SF Bay Area>


Here are some takeaways from this roster

  • 22% (4 of 18) athletes have American citizenship. Complaints that some U.S. clubs have too many expats on their roster are nothing new. And, the U.S. is not the only country where this is a concern. German national team coaches have complained that there are too many foreigners on HBL rosters and that this is limiting the development of German athletes. Why even Kielce, who CalHeat played in group play, has just 47% with Polish citizenship on their roster. That said… Kielce is a professional team. I doubt very much that lower level, amateur clubs in Poland have rosters with a high percentage of foreign athletes.
  • 33% (6 of 18) athletes live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Complaints that some U.S. clubs have only a limited connection to the city they claim to be from are also nothing new, but CalHeat has clearly taken this issue to a new extreme. While some athletes on the roster have a connection to San Francisco in that they lived there previously this is a tenuous connection at best. And, worse, I suspect that some athletes on the roster have never even set foot in San Francisco. Finally, for context… I’m guessing with a high degree of confidence that everyone on the Kielce roster lives in the Kielce area.
  • 14% (13 of 96) goals were scored by San Francisco Bay Area teams. I highlight this stat as a proxy for the relative contributions of the local athletes vs the merenary additions. It’s an imperfect proxy, but nonetheless it points to the reality that without mercenaries this club would likely have lost to Queensland and would have been really clobbered by the other clubs participating. Further, such a team would probably have lost to the clubs at the NACHC Club Championships and would not have qualified for the IHF Super Globe in the first place. I can’t say for sure as the rosters are flexible and there’s nothing that prevents clubs from other nations also bring in mercenaries of their own. Again… I don’t think anyone is breaking any rules.

Minimal Promotional Value and Unintended Consequences

There are some common refrains I often hear when I point out the problems with initiatives like this. The most common one I hear is along the lines of, “Yeah, it’s not perfect, but it’s important to promote handball in the U.S.” There is a kernel of truth to this… but, just a tiny kernel. That’s because the promotional value is so minimal. Maybe a 1,000 people in the U.S. (already handball fans) are even aware that a U.S. club is participating in an International club tournament. I guess if the goal is to give the world-wide handball community the impression that great progress is being made by having a “handball club from San Francisco” taking on the rest of the world… Well, you can fool some, but people are smarter than you think.

And, in this case the consequences are more than just inadequate promotion. Indeed, if the goal is to support handball development in countries like the U.S. the IHF Super Globe is actually having a negative effect. This is because good intentions (providing amateur clubs with a mostly paid for trip to take on the world’s best pros) has had the unintended consequence of super charging the incentive for amatuer clubs to boost their roster with mercenaries. While a club might prefer to simply go with the local athletes that practice with the club on a regular basis… if they really want to win they’ll need to expand their roster with athletes that have nothing to do with local development.

Addressing Mercenary Teams

Addressing “merencary teams” might seem rather straightforward, but it’s more complicated than you might think. Broadly, there are 2 ways of discouraging clubs from acquiring mercenary athletes:

  • 1) Legislate them away. Basically, this involves adding regulation requirements for citizenship and/or locality. Clubs in Europe have done this for many sports. Many countries had or still have rules that limit the number of American basketball players. Even handball has them as I know France limits the number of non-French citizens on lower level teams. Nationality enforcement can be done simply with a passport check. Locality restrictions, however are more challenging to determine and enforce. Years ago USA Team Handball tried to enforce this with athletes being requred to bring a utility bill with an address, but as I recall this was a short lived effort, probably due to enforcement challenges
  • 2) Make it financially challenging. Anyone who has played club handball in the U.S. knows that some clubs have regular season rosters that get boosted with new talent at the National Championships. This was because athletes would fly in (sometimes even from Europe) just for the one tournament that mattered each year. A requirement was then added for athletes to have played in at least one regular season tournament prior to nationals. The added cost of an extra trip tamped down on some mercenary participation, but didn’t eliminate it. I suspect that the recent addition of the Super Globe carrot has resulted in at least some athletes deciding it was still worth the cost to play with a team far away.

A Simple Solution: Change the IHF Super Globe to a Professional Club Only Event

While the U.S. could take steps to discourage mercenary teams it wouldn’t prevent other nations from doing so. And, while the IHF or the NACHC could theoretically step in with regulations that would discourage mercenary teams on a continental level enforcing those regulations would be challenging.

In fact, I’m not sure if there are any NACHC regulations regarding Super Globe qualification team rosters. I’m sure there are IHF regulations, but I suspect they are somewhat vague and/or loose in terms of requirements. How else could one explain the CalHeat roster?

I think the best solution would be to simply change the IHF Super Globe to a professional club only event. An event limited to continental federations with professional clubs. Clubs where all the athletes on the roster are are under contract for some TBD minimal amount.

And, then if the IHF wants to foster development in emerging nations like the U.S. they could support inititiatives that are focused on developing the sport. Because this initiative while well intentioned is clearly not having that effect.


A closer look at the USA Men’s Jr (U21) World Handball Championships Roster

The U.S. Jr Men are in Germany and getting ready to take on the world at the 2023 IHF Men’s Jr Handball World Championships. They will be playing in Magdeburg in Group A where they will face Poland, France and Croatia in Preliminary Group Play. Their first match is tomorrow (Tuesday) and they will take on Poland at 1:15 PM local / 7:15 AM US ET. Matches are to be streamed on the IHF YouTube channel.

The team had a productive training camp in Hungary where they played 3 exhibition matches, losing to Veszprem’s U20 team (39-30), Kuwait (29-26) and Libya (32-26). While all 3 matches were losses the team played very well at times as the team gets familiar with new players and prepares for the matches that count.

Here’s a closer look at the U.S. Final Roster grouped in to different categories:

By nation (where these Americans first played handball)

First a note: These athletes are all Americans. As someone who lived in France for five years, I’ll restate what I’ve said many times before: Just because someone grows up in another country doesn’t make them less of an American. In fact, I’ve argued that in some respects it makes a person “more American” in that they’ve likely had to think more about what it means to be an American. (If one wants to read more on this topic check out these links: Link Link Link Link)

That said, I continue to be surprised by the quality and quantity of overseas American athletes that the USA Men have been able to draw upon in recent years. 14 athletes first learned to play handball in another country. And, 9 different countries to boot. Without these athletes the U.S. would struggle to be competitive and in all likelihood would never have qualified. Four athletes are U.S. based and first learned the game in college. Three from perennial top college power, West Point and one from runners up, North Carolina.

Athletes by Age

By definition a U21 team is young team, but this roster takes it a step further with 7 athletes that are eligible for double duty this summer on the U19 team that will take part in the Youth World Championships in August.

Athletes by Position

Here’s a few notes on each position:

Goalkeepers: Mattia Cercola was the All Star goalkeeper at the NORCA Youth Championships and Hashim Mahmoud was on the NORCA Jr team squad. Grayson Wide is new to the team

Left Wing: Evan Gordon was on the U.S. NORCA Jr Team and Oliver Edwards is new to the team and plays for a prominent Hungarian side, MOL Tatabanya

Left Back: Maksim McCauley is just 18 years old, but he’s already seen action with the U.S. Sr team and he was an all star at the NORCA Youth Championships. Neopomuk Grabner was also on the U.S. team at the NORCA youth Championships and was an alternate on the U.S. Sr Team for the 2023 World Championships. Markus Ole Strommen is new to the team

Center Back: Elliot Robertson was named the MVP of the NORCA Jr Championships. Matisse Walker and Benjamin Edwards are new to the team.

Right Back: Mark Miller was on the NORCA Jr Team and is a Junior at West Point. Tristan Morawski was the All Star Right back at the NORCA Youth Championships

Right Wing: Both Gary Phillips and Loic Karrer were on the NORCA Jr Team. Phillips was a recruited QB at West Point and has been playing handball for less than a year. I would also assess him to be the best stateside handball prospect since Gary Hines.

Circle Runner: Both Samuel Proctor (West Point) and Connor Reed (North Carolina) were on the NORCA Jr Team. Daniel Hunyadi is new to the team and reportedly has been a big contributor for the team in preparatory matches.


The U.S. was dealt a very challenging preliminary group and it’s unlikely they will avoid finishing 4th. That said, this appears to be a side with potential that will likely improve as the tournament progresses and should pick up some wins in the President’s Cup.


  • IHF Competition Page: Link
  • Tournament Website: Link
  • Wikipedia Page: Link
  • Streaming: Link
  • Odds (Bet MGM): Link (Yes, there are lines on these matches)

Two Handball Championships in Sweden Separated by 30 Years (Part 2): From 0% to 83% Dual Citizens- Does that Matter?

The 1993 World Championship team. 100% stateside raised Americans. There were 2 European based Americans, however, that attended our training camp, but didn’t make the squad. Oh, how times have changed… big time.

In Part 1, I took a whimsical look back at the 1993 USA World Championship team. This time I take a closer look at the composition of the squad and how we’ve gone from zero dual citizens to a roster that is around 80% comprised of Americans who first learned handball in another country. And why it doesn’t matter and, at the same time matters a lot.

Some Disclaimers

First things first… let’s getting something out of the way that I think I shouldn’t even have to. And, that’s a clear cut statement that just because I’m discussing the role of dual citizens on our national doesn’t mean that I think they shouldn’t be playing for Team USA. That is simply not the case. The more the merrier. The best American handball athletes should always make a USA Sr National Team roster.

And, it sure doesn’t mean that I think they are “second class” Americans or something moronic like that. In fact, having lived in France for five years that experience has led me to believe that in many respects an American living abroad is in some ways actually more “American” than a stateside American. For sure, they’ve likely thought more about their nationality and what it means than someone living comfortably in a sea of fellow citizens.

Finally, I think it also goes without saying that if you care about the development of handball in the United States you should really care about where the best American handball athletes are coming from. Because if only a handful of stateside based athletes can make a national team roster or even get invited to a training camp… it’s a very, very clear indication that handball in the U.S. needs better stateside development. That doesn’t mean you don’t cheer on the team… Just means you should be concerned with what it means to the bigger picture.

A Brief History of Dual Citizens playing for Team USA

Dual citizens, playing for the U.S. National Team is nothing new. In fact, in the very early days I think there might have been some foreign nationals residing in the U.S. that hadn’t even obtained U.S. citizenship playing for the U.S. Regardless, the U.S. took advantage of recent immigrants with handball experience to both start the initial development of the sport and to represent the U.S. in international competition.

Over time, however, U.S. sides became almost exclusively Americans that had lived in the U.S. their entire lives and had to be introduced to the sport. The primary exception usually were goalkeepers, but eventually even this highly specialized position started to see more stateside Americans earn roster spots.

When I played regularly in the 80s and 90s I knew of only two dual citizens that represented the U.S. Terje Vatne from Norway played backcourt and Mark Schmocker from Switzerland who played on our 1996 Olympic Team. Periodically, from time to time there were dual citizens that tried out for the team, but to my knowledge none of them made the team or chose to move to the U.S. (more on that later)

In the 2000s more dual citizens started to make U.S. rosters. Adam El Zoghby comes to mind as one of our early additions, but as we progressed through the 2010s to the 2020s this trickle eventually turned into a full fledged flood. The key turning point was 2018. In May of that year the U.S. finished 5th out 6 teams at the North American & Caribbean Championships. The team had only 2 dual citizen, including a 20 year old Sam Hoddersen who led the team in scoring playing out of position at center back. Just four months later, the U.S. had a new coach, Robert Hedin, and a few more dual citizens playing. With a backcourt trio of Ian Huter, Abou Fofana and Gary Hines they easily outclassed a Canadian side the U.S. had lost to in May. And, from that tournament on it’s been a steady progression of more and more dual citizens on the roster up to the 2023 World Championships where 20 of the 24 athletes seeing playing time were dual citizens.

The 1993 WC Training Camp

To further illustrate how things have changed I’ll share my own brief experience with a couple of dual citizens that tried out for the 1993 World Championship Team. Prior to the World Championships the U.S. National Team traveled to Finland for a two week training camp at the Finnish Olympic Training Center.

To be clear this “National Team” was also a “Residency Team” that was training together full time at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. And, as the name implies not only training together, but also, with a few exceptions, living on the same floor in a dormitory environment. Such a situation inevitably creates a pretty tight team comparable in some respects to what one might experience in a military style boot camp. You practice together, you eat together, you watch TV together, you go out together at night. It’s very similar to the team environment an athlete experiences at a major tournament… except year round.

So, when we were told that two guys who we knew nothing about would be participating at our training camp the reaction was one of malaise, particularly for anyone who might not make the team. On the one hand our team clearly lacked depth and an athlete that could genuinely help us would be a nice addition. But, on the other hand, did we want to see one of our buddies get sent home after months and months of training together? Of course, not, but anyone who has ever tried out for a team understands that not making the cut sometimes is part of the process.

The two newcomers were from Norway and Sweden and they were decent players. (Note, after 30 years I don’t remember their names.) The Norwegian was a back court player with good skills, but was pretty young (~17) and just wasn’t ready to play with adults. The Swede was in his mid 20’s and a fairly accomplished Center Back. He had a slight build and wasn’t as good of athlete as the two athletes playing the bulk of the minutes at CB, but he was a good passer with a lot of experience. He wouldn’t have started, but possibly could have come off the bench depending on the circumstance. His making the team wouldn’t have resulted in cutting either of our two Center Backs, but would have instead taken a roster sport from some athletes training with us who were very new to handball.

In the end neither athlete made the final roster. I’m not sure what Coach Voitech Mares thought process was, but I suspect he assessed that the marginal benefit they would have provided was not worth disrupting the team’s cohesiveness. Yes, the old curse that sometimes requires an athlete trying out to not “just be a little bit better” than their competition, but “substantially better” came into play here. In the history of sports this situation has occurred for a number of reasons from contract cost, to age, even to race when the NCAA and NBA had unofficial limits on the number of African American they would have on their teams.

The Dynamics of a Residency Team Concept and National Team Selection

So, some folks might be shaking their head at the prospect of the best available athletes not making the team. But, one has to keep in mind what the U.S. was trying to accomplish then and at other times when the residency team concept was employed. The goal wasn’t to win now, but to try and develop a team that could win at some point in the future. Giving a roster spot to a dual citizen who wasn’t training with the team or willing to move to the U.S. to start training with the team was taking a spot from someone that was. Temporary benefit at the expense of potential long term gain.

And, this non-selection strategy wasn’t just reserved for dual citizens. At times stateside Americans who were playing in Europe were also excluded. I was gob smacked to learn recently that my 1993 WC teammate and current USA Asst Coach, Darrick Heath had not been on our 1995 WC team. The reason? He was playing professionally in Europe and his club would not release him early to come back to the U.S. to train. Yes, arguably our best player was denied a roster slot because our coach wanted him practicing with the team more. No wonder we only finished one spot higher, 15th in 1995. More recently at different times in his career, Gary Hines was not even contacted for his availability for some national team events. And, we’re not talking 38 year old Gary… we’re talking a much younger Gary in his prime.

The Demise of the Residency Team Concept?

For the past 15 years or so I have been a pretty vocal critic of the residency team concept. I’ve written several commentaries about why it never ever worked very well and why it’s even more unlikely to succeed today. I won’t rehash them all again. If you want you can read them here: link

But, regardless what one might think or believe about the merits of a residency team the quantity and quality of dual citizens the U.S. now has available for our Men’s National Team has rendered the question/debate moot. I guess we could spend a small fortune establishing a residency program, but what would be the point? If we could get the necessary funds (a big if), could find and convince quality athletes to participate (another big if), it would be a long, long road for them to even earn a roster spot with this current team. (yet, another big if) Seriously, just imagine the recruiting pitch to someone who’s never played GK before regarding what it will take to eventually get a roster spot. Such a pitch could only be successful if you have the morals of Representative George Santos.

Come Again? Why Did the U.S. have Residency Programs in the First Place?

Well, I can see how someone relatively new to handball or just a top level precursory understanding of U.S. sports structure would ask this question… The answer is quite simple.

Without a residency program of some sort, historically the U.S. would have struggled to even field a team, let alone a competitive team.

The reality is that handball is played by only around 500 to 1,000 people in the United States… and a sizable percentage of this 1,000 aren’t even American citizens. These commentaries from 2019 outline the demographics and are are representative of our current status. It might even be a little worse since COVID likely caused a retraction.

And, now that we don’t have a residency program I can state unequivocally that had the U.S. been forced to field a team without dual citizens we would never have qualified for the 2023 World Championships. We wouldn’t have even come close. I would assess that such a team would have finished last at the recent NACHC championships and would have lost every match by double digits to Greenland, Cuba and Mexico. Our U21 and U19 teams which recently qualified for the World Championships this summer would have also not qualified, but probably could have mustered a win against other very inexperienced teams.

Trading One “Artificial” Solution for Another

In some respects, the U.S. has simply traded one artificial solution (residency programs) for another (a team mostly comprised of dual citizens). Artificial in the sense that both solutions essential paper over the reality that there is very, very limited grass roots development in the U.S. The sort of grass roots that would help make handball a sport that mattered in the U.S. Real development that would have Americans playing the sport from coast to coast and athletes eventually making national teams the traditional way through schools and clubs, continuously playing at higher levels until they reach the top of the pyramid.

And, let’s be clear this is the development that everyone in the world-wide handball community really wants. It’s awesome to have a competitive team to cheer on, but it’s comical to hear or read commentary that sees the U.S. team pick up some wins and conclude that the U.S. is really developing handball now. Because while that may happen it’s certainly not happening yet.

And, while one might think that a competitive national team could help spur development stateside, the U.S. still has not figured out how to break into the national consciousness. Stateside there’s been very little buzz beyond our small handball community as ESPN has once again inexplicably done nothing to promote handball on its streaming platform.

A Really Good Deal

But, while a roster heavily dependent on dual citizens is an artificial solution that doesn’t really help stateside development it’s still a really good deal. And, this is primarily because dual citizens basically cost nothing to develop as those costs are paid by other nations and the clubs they play for. The U.S. can basically run this current national team as if it were a hidden little country in Europe, holding training camps periodically to help these individuals gel as a team. For a cash strapped federation with very little money it’s hard to fully quantify just what a really good deal that is. Well, you sort of can. Take all that money and time that would have been spent on a residency program over the next five years… and think of all the ways that money can now be spent on grass roots development.

And, make no mistake: without these athletes some sort of residency program would have to be developed. Why? Because we simply could not be competitive without one and the IHF will want to see a competitive team taking the floor in Los Angeles in 2028. It’s not clear how much funding would be available for such an effort, but some percentage of the overall budget would continuously be sucked into it. Otherwise… we might not be allowed to field a team at the Olympics, even if we are the hosts.

A Golden Generation

But, the U.S. didn’t just get a good deal. No, we pretty much have hit the jackpot with this current crop of dual citizens. I’ve hemmed and hawed a bit about whether it’s a “Golden Generation” but, not anymore. The depth in terms of quantity and quality is statistically way better than one could normally expect. This doesn’t mean we are going to start winning Olympic and World Championship medals, but we’ll be competitive for the next several years. Five years out we pretty much have 70-80% of our Olympic roster identified. Heck, it might be 100% identified. All provided at essentially no cost. This might not qualify as a Golden Generation for France or Denmark, but for the U.S. it clearly does. We’ve never had it so good.

Does it Matter or Not: Answer: Yes and No

So, if it’s not already obvious how one answers this question depends on your perspective and objective.

From a narrow national team perspective it doesn’t matter at all. The task at hand, whether you’re a coach or player is to go out and perform. For the U.S. that means to be competitive and to continuously work on improving. Depending on the competition that might mean winning a title or it might mean advancing to new heights. No one directly involved in near term preparation of our national teams should care where are athletes come from or how they got there.

However, from a big picture administrative and planning perspective it really matters. If very few stateside athletes are worthy of selection to our national teams that’s a very clear indication that there our stateside structures need work… a lot of work. The good news is that since nothing special is required to “create” a national team more attention can be placed on efforts to truly develop handball stateside. This is a monumental and complex task that won’t be easy and the Golden Generation is both a gift and a warning. It’s a gift in that it frees up a lot of resources (funds and manhours). But, it’s also a warning… Golden generations don’t last forever and we won’t always have such a talented group to bail us out. The time this generation buys needs to be used wisely.

Think that I’m exaggerating this Golden Generation we have? That either they aren’t that good or that we’ll always have a similar talented group available. Well, we just so happen to have a similar cohort that we can compare it to. The current dual citizen cohort for the U.S. Women is a very stark contrast as it is nowhere near the U.S. Men in terms of quality and quantity. And, that presents a lot of challenges. I’ll tackle those challenges next.


A Closer Look at the USA Men’s Final Roster for the 2023 World Championships

USA Team Handball released their final 18 man roster for the 2023 IHF Men’s Handball World Championships yesterday. Here’s a closer look at the roster:

Coach Hedin and his team had invited 24 athletes to their pre World Championship Training Camp in Trondheim, Norway and Gothenburg, Sweden. These are the 6 athletes that weren’t selected:

From my perspective there was only one surprise with the selection and that was the decision to select Nik Zarikos instead of Sean Corning. The two were not in direct competition as Zarikos plays left wing and Corning plays right wing, but apparently Zarikos, who has not been previously selected for a Sr team roster, impressed the coaching staff in camp. Corning had made the NACHC Championship roster this summer, but Max Binderis was not available for that tournament.

Overall, there was almost no change from the roster that would have participated in the 2021 World Championship, but had to withdraw due to several positive COVID tests. In fact, Zarikos is the only addition. Going back further, the core of the team from the 2019 PANAM Games is still there with 11 athletes from that team selected for this squad.

Here’s a schematic of the roster by position with a few notes:

Goalkeeper: Pal Merkovsky who plays in Hungary’s top division is the likely #1 GK and will likely get the bulk of the minutes.

Left wing: Sam Hoddersen, who led the USA in scoring this past summer at the NACHC Championships will likely start and will probably play most of the time. Gary Hines might also play some wing as well

Left Back: Abou Fofana led the U.S. in scoring at the friendly warm up tournament in Trondheim. In his club career in France, he’s actually been used mostly as a defensive specialist, but he’s starting to get more playing time in the backcourt and has scored 33 goals this season. The biggest question mark will be his consistency and accuracy on long range shots. Hines, 38, is the team’s veteran and he plays much younger than his age. His jumping ability his hard to miss and he may play some at left wing as well. Amitovic is less experienced, but played well at the NACHC Championships.

Center Back: Team Captain, Ian Hueter is the linchpin of the offense directing traffic and executing the attack. He does an outstanding job of getting everyone involved and his performance will be key to the U.S. having success in set offense attacks. Alex Chan, is also more than capable as he is leading the Liga ASOBAL in scoring with 100 goals in 15 matches this season. (Yes, this is not a misprint: an American is the leading scorer in Spain’s top league.) Although, he is a natural center back he will likely play right back much of the time. Although out of position he will keep the ball moving laterally and will still find ways to score

Right Back: As mentioned above, Chan will likely play quite a bit at right back. Backing him up will be a pair of left handed youngsters, 21 year old Joey Stromberg and and 19 year old Jakob Rysgaard.

Right Wing: Veteran, Ty Reed, will likely get the nod here with Max Binderis backing him up.

Circle Runner: The U.S. is well stocked at this position with four big dudes that can play the position: Domagoj Srsen, Donlin, Patrick Hueter and Paul Skorupa. On offense Donlin and Hueter will likely get the most minutes and Srsen, who previously played for Hannover in the German Bundesliga should start on defense, rotating with Alex Chan.

Roster by Age

Here’s a look at the roster from youngest to oldest. The average age of the team is 26.1 years old and is a good mix of veterans and relative newcomers. And, for anyone looking ahead towards LA 2028 a good portion of the roster will surely be available for selection 5 years from now when the U.S. hosts the Olympics.

2023 Handball World Championship Web Streaming (Information and Schedule)

Your options for watch the 2023 Handball World Championships will vary depending on where you live. Some nations will be able to watch all the matches on the IHF YouTube Channel while other nations will have all or some of the matches available on a TV Channel and/or streaming to which the rights have been sold. This IHF article outlines how to watch in each nation: Link

  • IHF Competitions YouTube Channel: Link


ESPN will be airing up to 4 matches each day on their Watch ESPN platform which is accessible to anyone who subscribes to ESPN via Cable, Satellite or Streaming Service. (Important Note: This does not require an ESPN+ subscription. Further it will not be available on ESPN+. To watch the Handball WC you will need a traditional ESPN Subscription)

Watch ESPN can be watched on your TV, laptop or phone. Personally, I watch it via my ESPN app on my Roku, but there are multiple options. Typically, the first time you go to watch something, you will be asked to verify your account so have your username and password ready.

Matches are now being populated on the schedule page and can be found under the ESPN3 Channel. If past history is a guide ESPN will also add a handball logo and a 2023 WC logo to help find the matches. Additionally, matches will likely show up on the main page, but only a few minutes before the match starts.

  • ESPN Handball Schedule: Link


There is no TV contract so all matches should be available on the IHF YouTube page: Link


A Virtual Private Network (VPN) might provide access to matches that are not available on ESPN. For more information on how to use VPN check this article out: Link

Spam Sites

You’ve surely seen the multitude of social media postings inviting you to watch the match on their free service. Don’t even bother with these sites. They typically will ask you to download a video player on your computer. Trust me… you don’t want that app on your computer and in all likelihood they won’t even have the match. Go with VPN