2023 PANAM Games (USA Men’s Preview and Outlook)

The Men’s PANAM Games competition will start Monday, 30 October and here’s a closer look at the U.S. Men’s roster and the competition. Here’s the roster compiled from previous tournaments and a recent USA Team Handball post.

USA Men’s Roster

The PANAM Games allows only 14 athletes on the official roster which is more restrictive than other recent tournaments which allowed as many as 18 athletes and up to as many as 6 alternates which could also be activated and dressed. The PANAM Games does allow for 2 alternates, but there are more restrictions for activating them and significant addtional costs for them to travel. As such, my understanding is that the U.S. has chosen to have only 14 athletes travel to Chile.

With the smaller roster size this meant that the coaching staff likely had to make some tough choices on who to keep and leave off the roster. As I review the roster by position, I’ll note some of the athletes that made the 2023 World Championship roster that are missing.

Goalkeeper: Pal Merkovsky who plays in Hungary’s top division is the #1 GK and will likely get the bulk of the minutes. Doug Otterstrom will be his backup and this suggests that he has moved ahead of Rene Ingram and Nicolas Robinson as the #2 GK.

Left wing: Sam Hoddersen has been a consistent and reliable performer at left wing. At the 2023 WC he was the 2nd leading scorer for the U.S. with 21 goals on 30 attempts. Gary Hines is also listed as a left wing, but I think he may see more time in the back court. Left off the roster was Nik Zarikos and he was likely left off due to the roster limitations

Left Back: Abou Fofana is the primary big shooter and U.S. success might well rest on him having a good tournament and a higher shooting percentage than his 41% at the WC. Amar Amitovic will also likely see a lot more playing time with the smaller roster

Center Back: As usual, Ian Hueter will be conducting the offense, but with scoring options more limited in the backcourt he may need to look to score more. 17 year old Benjamin Edwards is a recent roster addition and it will be very interesting to see what he can contribute at his first senior men’s tournament. Having seen him play this past summer at both the U19 and U21 it’s clear his future is very bright, but playing against grown men will be a challenge. Sorely missed will be Alex Chan, who was the U.S. leading scoring at the 2023 World Championships. USA Team Handball had no comment in regard to his non-selection, but Chan communicated with me that he’s had some issues with Passport renewal. He’s an experienced player who was another real threat to score against top competition. Without that extra option it will be a little tougher for everyone else to score. And, it won’t just be the goals we’ll be missing as he was also an effective passer that made the players around him better.

Right Back: Joey Stromberg is the only true right back on the roster, and, at times he’s shown promise. But, for the most part in recent competition, Coach Hedin has chosen to go with a right hander, either Alex Chan or Gary Hines at this postion. With Chan unavailable, it’s a great opportunity for Stromberg to step up. And, regardless we’ll also likely see Hines here as well. Perhaps even McCauley as he’s played backcourt for the U19 and U21 teams some.

Right Wing: With veteran Ty Reed stepping away from handball, this position will now be filled by Max Binderis and Sean Corning. Both have shown they are capable, but I don’t know if there is a clear #1 at this position now

Circle Runner: The U.S. has 2 big men (Drew Donlin and Domagoj Srsen) in the middle available and they will anchor a solid U.S. defence. It would be even more solid with real depth, but both Patrick Hueter and Paul Skorupa will be unavailable due to injury. Donlin will likely be the primary option on offense, but Srsen and Maksim McCauley will also likely see time here.

The Opposition and U.S. Outlook

The U.S. is in Group B with Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay. Argentina is the clear favorite to win the group, but they are getting a little bit older and don’t seem quite as strong as they have been in the past. Star player, Diego Simonet has also struggled with injuries the past few seasons and has only played limited minutes this season with his club team Montpellier.

In all likelihood it should be a three team battle between the U.S., Cuba and Uruguay for 2nd place and a berth in the semifinals. The USA beat Cuba 32-28 at the 2022 NACHC Championship, but Cuba have improved since then, as demonstrated by their undefeated campaign at the 2023 Central American & Carribean Games. Uruguay had a disappointing 2023 WC campaign where they failed to win a match to finish 32 out of 32 teams. That said, they still have experienced players and won’t be an opponent to take lightly.

Something for NACHC fans to cheer for: The NACHC currently only receives 1 WC slot while the SCAHC receives 4 slots. Seems a little out of whack doesn’t it? Well, nothing would demonstrate that thought more than USA and Cuba victories over Uruguay (the 4th SCAHC slot team).

US Outlook?: Well, before I realized that Alex Chan would be unavailable I felt pretty good about a semifinal berth. The U.S. had shown it’s mettle at the WC beating other 2nd tier nations like Morocco and Belgium. Teams clearly better than Cuba and Uruguay. Why, it even seemed conceivable to think of a surprise upset over a somewhat weakend Argentina.

But, losing cogs (like Chan, P Hueter and Skorupa) in the wheel points to our lack of depth. We can still beat teams like Cuba and Uruguay… but, we’re no longer clear favorites to do so. Instead, I see a real dog fight and the U.S. will really need to stay healthy and have some players step it up yet another notch to make the semfinals. And, of course, it’s much harder to conceptualize a victory over stronger sides like Argentina or Brazil. But, then again, there’s a reason why the games are played on the court. The key is to make the semifinals at which point it will be a knockout tournament where in one match anything can happen.

Handball Web Streaming This Weekend (2-4 July 2021)

Christine Mansour can be seen in action this weekend with Dutch club, Kras Volendam

  • More information on where to find web streams for National Team, Professional Club and USA Competitions: Link
  • For regular updates on when and where handball matches can be streamed online follow Team Handball News on social media: Twitter Facebook Instagram

All times are CET which is 6 hours ahead of US ET. Odds courtesy of Bet MGM and/or OddsPortal.

American Athletes in Action

The Rip Beach Handball Club wraps up their European journey with the Nazares, Portugal stop on the Arena Handball Tour. Many of the athletes playing for Rip Beach are also members of the USA Beach Handball National Team.

Also, on the Women’s side some American National Team players, Christine Mansour and Missy Sponagle are playing with Dutch side Kras Volendam. I will post the scheduled match times and results when they are available. They also will surely be available on Rip Beach Handball’s social media platforms

  • Rip Beach Handball: Facebook Instagram
  • Spanish YouTube Site: Link (There are 2 live streams for courts 1 and 2)
  • Match Schedule (Rip Beach Handball):
    • Rip Beach Handball is in Pool C of the Men’s Open Division: Schedule Standings
      • Rip Beach Handball – Core Global BM Playa Parla 2:1 (30:32;25:24;11:10)
      • Rip Beach Handball – Playa Rayito Salinero 1:2 (22:18;18:24;6:7)
        • Video Link (only a portion of the match is available)
    • Knockout Bracket
      • Round of 16 Rip Beach Handball vs CBMP City of Malaga 0:2 (20:28;17:24)
  • Match Schedule (Kras Volendam):
    • Kras Volendam is in Pool C of the Women’s Open Division: Schedule Standings
      • Kras Volendam – Antua 2:0 (26:8;14:10)
      • Kras Volendam vs Playa Alcala 2:1 (23:22;26:29;6:4)
        • Video Link (Slide bar left to the beginning. Only the shootout is available)
      • Kras Volendam vs BHCE Plan B 0:2 (15:23;20:27)
        • Video Link (Link is set to the beginning of the match)
    • There was a 3 way tie in the Pool and Volendam was 3rd in the group on tiebreakers so they didn’t advance to the Knockout stage.

Other Matches this Weekend

  • NACHC Qualification for the Jr PANAM Games:  
    • NACHC Website: Link
    • All Times below are US ET
    • 1 July, 2021
      • 1630 Dominican Republic 30, Cuba 36  Video Link
      • 1830 Mexico 27, Puerto Rico 21 Video Link
        • Due to a roster eligibility issue Puerto Rico was declared the winner of this match
    • 2 July, 2021
      • 1630 Dominican Republic 30 vs Mexico 28 Video Link
    • 3 July, 2021

Podcast (Episode 75): Team USA and AS Cannes Mandelieu’s, Nicole Andersen (Part 1)

Nicole Andersen, has been playing for the U.S. Women’s National Team since 2015. She has Danish and American citizenship and currently plays her club handball for AS Cannes Mandelieu in the French 2nd Division. In Part 1 of our interview we discuss how she started playing handball, became a member of the U.S. National Team and her experience this season playing during the pandemic.

Don’t miss an episode:

  • Subscribe on YouTube: Link (Earliest Availability)
  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes: Link
  • Follow the Team Handball News podcast on Spotify: Link
  • Or use this RSS Feed to sign up for the podcast in your favorite podcast aggregator: Link

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

Podcast (Episode 73): Team USA and TSV Bayer Dormagen’s, Ian and Patrick Hueter

The Hueter brothers (Ian (center bottom) and (Patrick (left corner) are key members of the USA Men’s National Team.

There’s a long line of handball brothers playing for their country in international handball competition. France’s Bertrand and Guillaume Gille, Spain’s Alex and Daniel Dujshebaev, Poland’s Krzysztof and Marcin Lijewski, Argentina’s Diego, Pablo and Sebastian Simonet and Chile’s Emil, Erwin and Harald Feuchtmann to name a few. Why, even the U.S. had the Fitzgerald brothers (Joe and Tom) representing at the 1996 Olympics. Now added to this long line are Team USA’s Hueter brothers, Ian and Patrick.

Ian and Patrick join the podcast to discuss several topics to include their handball origins, connections to the U.S. despite mostly growing up in Germany, playing for TSV Bayer Dormagen youth teams and transitioning to the pro club, playing in the super competitive HBL 2, their recent contract extensions with Dormagen, Team USA’s upcoming training camp in Denmark and, of course, the upcoming 2021 World Championships.

Don’t miss an episode:

  • Subscribe on YouTube: Link (Earliest Availability)
  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes: Link
  • Follow the Team Handball News podcast on Spotify: Link
  • Or use this RSS Feed to sign up for the podcast in your favorite podcast aggregator: Link

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

The USA Gets a 2021 WC Slot, While Greenland (and Others) Stay Home (Part 2): The Competitive Case


Greenland vs USA All Time Record:  All very interesting, but how relevant is it?

In Part 1, I endorsed the first five “business case” reasons that the IHF listed as rationale for selecting the U.S. to participate in the 2021 IHF Handball World Championships. I won’t, however, endorse the 6th listed reason:

  • From those teams that have registered for the planned qualification event and showed interest in playing the qualification (Canada, Greenland, Puerto Rico, USA), USA are the best-ranked team at the last official competition, namely the 2019 Pan American Games.

Why? Because, while true, it’s a tone deaf slap in the face to Greenland handball since Greenland is not allowed to participate in the PANAM Games. And, if you can’t compete in a competition it’s impossible to get ranked at that competition!

A Primer on National Team Handball Tournaments in the Americas

When it comes to national team competitions in the Americas a lot of folks get confused, and, for good reason as these competitions have similar names and participants. The best way to understand how everything is structured is to know which sport’s organization has overall jurisdiction for that competition. Or, to put it another way, what final tournament are the nations trying to qualify for?

For the IHF World Championships the IHF is ultimately responsible and until the Pan American Team Handball Federation (PATHF) was split into two confederations the event that qualified teams for the World Championships was the Pan American Championships. These Championships were held every 2 years and Greenland was able to participate because they are member of the IHF.

For the Olympic Games, the IOC is ultimately responsible and Greenland cannot participate because they are not a member of the IOC. Working with the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO), PATHF decided in 1987 to have the PANAM Games, which is essentially a mini-Olympics for the Americas as the handball qualification event for the Olympics. The PANAM Games are held every four years and Greenland cannot participate because they are not a member of the IOC or PASO.

As to why Greenland isn’t a member of the IOC it relates to Greenland’s semi-autonomous status as part of Denmark. The IOC currently requires full independence for new memberships. Which, incidentally, is why Puerto Rico competes in the Olympics despite their semi-autonomous state as they were “grandfathered” in as member prior to the change in policy.

Incidentally, since the North/South split of PATHF there has been no indication of any IHF plans to grant both the NACHC and SCAHC an Olympic slot. This status quo regarding Olympic qualification implies that the North and South will continue to share an Olympic slot that will be awarded at the PANAM Games.

The Tale of the Tape (All Time GRL-USA Competition Record)

So, while Greenland and the USA have never met in a PANAM Games competition they’ve met eight times in Pan American Championship tournaments, once in a North American Championship and once even at the World Championships. Here’s the all time match record based on Wikipedia results pages.

As an American, all I can say is, “Wow, this head to head summary pretty much summarizes the dismal performance of our men’s national team in the 21st century. 1-0-9 vs Greenland. A 330,000,000 population vs 55,000. This isn’t a rivalry. This is an ass whuppin. Seriously, what is wrong with handball in our country?”

At least that’s how it feels emotionally as someone who really, really cares about handball in this country. Putting on my analytical hat, however, none of this should be that surprising. So what if our population is almost 6,000 times larger. That doesn’t matter if more Greenlanders than Americans are actually playing handball. And, while our total GDP as a nation is massive, I suspect that Greenland spends more on handball than the U.S. does, from grass roots all the way to national teams.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Looking at this historical record is quite the trip down memory lane and it really does mirror the decline of handball in the U.S. since the 1996 Olympic Games.  Note, how the sole U.S. victory is the very first match between the two countries in 1998. A ten goal victory with a roster that surely had some holdovers from that Olympic team.  But, as those players got older and nothing was really in place to develop athletes with traditional grass roots or a residency program the balance of power shifted.   In 2001, thanks to Cuba bowing out, the U.S. got a ticket to the World Championship where the U.S. was totally uncompetitive losing by an average of 22 goals, including an 8 goal loss to Greenland.  A year later with a trip to the 2002 World Championships on the line Greenland steam rolled over the U.S. 27-7.  The score at halftime:  11-2.  Two goals in 30 minutes?  To Greenland? When I first heard that result I was astonished.  When I asked an old teammate, “What the hell happened?” I got kind of a shrug and no real explanation.

And, for me personally, it was the beginning of a wakeup call, that the times they were a changin’.  A wakeup call, that was further realized by living 5 years in France and getting a close up view of what we up against on the world stage.  With support from the U.S. Olympic Committee being drastically cut and with no real grass roots structure in place it was the start of some real lean years for USA Team Handball.  Gone were the days when we could recruit some great athletes, train them up with a residency program and go take on the world.  At least that’s what was ridiculously obvious to me.  However, it was not so obvious to others and we attempted to recreate our “glory days” with an underfunded residency program that struggled to recruit athletes and couldn’t afford to travel to Europe for the competition that was needed to improve.

A Wakeup Call and a Change in Direction

Poor results continued as did the U.S. losing streak to Greenland.  In 2018 came the low water mark.  At a North American Championship, the U.S. finished 5th out of 6 nations and failed to even qualify for the Pan American Championships.  It did, however, finally elicit a wakeup call for USA Team Handball

Coincidence or not, my plea to shift to dual citizens was heeded and a totally revamped roster was put together to qualify for the 2019 PANAM Games.  Overnight the U.S. had a much better team and they qualified with relative ease over Canada winning a 2 match aggregate qualification by 12 goals.  And, having witnessed both matches in person, I would argue that it wasn’t even as close as the scores suggested.  The U.S. didn’t do as well as I would have liked at the PANAM Games, due in part to some injuries, but the score lines were better and we notched a victory over a Cuban team that’s also improved significantly.  The U.S. also performed well at the 2019 North American Emerging Nations Qualifier and the 2019 Emerging Nations Championship.

Is this new U.S. team World class?  No.  Our top prospects are playing in the German 2nd Divisions (Ian and Patrick Hueter) and the French 2nd Division (Abou Fofana).  And, then we have several players (thanks to support from the Forum Club Handball) are playing with top clubs like Spain’s Leon (Drew Donlin), Flensburg (Ty Reed, Tristan Morawski), Elverum (Nico Robinson) and Kristianstad (Rene Ingram).  With the exception of Donlin, these athletes are playing with 2nd teams, but also are training some of the time with the first team.  Those are all great training environments and every one of these athletes has improved since their PANAM Games opportunity last year.

They are not going to beat Norway and France, but they should put up a credible fight and we’ll see some flashes of real promise.  And, likely some wins in the President’s Cup.  Several of these athletes are also in their early 20s and will also likely be representing the U.S. in Los Angeles come 2028.

Better than Greenland?  (Or, Cuba for that Matter?)

Well, first to reiterate with emphasis:

No one.  I repeat no one is happy that no championship could be held to decide a winner on the court.  No one.

That being said, my educated guess if the North American & Caribbean Championship had been held this is the percentage odds as to who would have won.

  • Cuba: 40%
  • USA: 33%
  • Greenland: 25%
  • Another team 2%

Of course, this is just an educated guess, and we’ll never ever know for real, but here’s some more rationale.  Cuba and the U.S. played 4 times last year and split the matches 2-2, but I would assess that Cuba are a little deeper in terms of overall talent.

Neither the U.S. nor Cuba have played Greenland recently so it’s harder to extrapolate.  One might argue that Greenland’s performance at the 2018 Pan American Championships would make them the better team.  After all, they almost knocked off Chile to qualify for the 2019 WC, but those results are a bit tempered by the home crowd atmosphere they had pulling for them.  Further, their team is getting older with their top 3 players, Minik Dahl Hoegh and the Kreutzmann brothers all in their 30s and stepping away from full time handball.  And, there is no depth whatsoever on the Greenland roster.  Doesn’t mean they can’t overcome these shortcomings, just suggests that it would be a bit tougher for them to do so.

Does it Matter? Shouldn’t the IHF Just Look at Recent Results?

But, why just spitball how good the current teams are?  Let’s just look at the recent results.  I guess I could go along with that logic if it was written down somewhere that is the process that has to be followed.  But, lacking an established process it becomes a bit of gamesmanship.  Like the gamesmanship of using the PANAM Games as criteria to exclude Greenland.  How far back does one go in order to determine relevant results?  Should one factor in that both Cuba and the U.S. are dramatically different teams now?  Why or Why not?  Again, when one establishes criteria after the fact, one can select criteria that makes their case better.  Lacking such criteria, I would suggest that the business case for the U.S. couple with their recent improvement in performance makes the U.S. the logical, best choice to represent the NACHC.

An Awesome Set of Rivalries Shaping Up

I guess to end on a positive note, this little confederation is shaping up to be quite interesting.  Cuba and the U.S. have already renewed their rivalry and Greenland will be joining them.  I suspect the next GRL-USA match will be a hard fought one.  Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are surely thinking don’t forget about us.  Yes, one can really look forward to a real championship played on the court.  The sooner, the better.

2019 Women’s Pan American (PANAM) Games Preview:  Can Anyone Stop Brazil?

Eduarda “Duda” Amorim and Brazil are Overwhelming Favorites to Take Gold

The 2019 Pan American (PANAM) Games officially open on Friday, 26 July, but the Women’s Team Handball competition will get started two days earlier.  Here’s some key information about the tournament and the nations that will be competing.

What’s at Stake:  The tournament winner will automatically qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.  The runner up will be guaranteed a spot in an Olympic qualification tournament to be played in spring 2020.  Additionally, there’s a possibility that 3rd place will also get a ticket to an Olympic Qualification slot, but that won’t be known until after 2019 World Championships in December.

The Format:  The eight nations that qualified for the competition have been split into two groups of four.  Each group will play a round robin.  The top two nations from each group will then advance to the semifinals and the bottom two nations will advance to the consolations semis.  The winners of the semifinals will play for gold while the semifinal losers will play for bronze.


Wednesday, 24 July        Group Play
Thursday, 25 July              Group Play
Friday, 26 July                    <PANAM Games Opening Ceremonies>
Saturday, 27 July              Group Play
Sunday, 28 July                 <Rest Day>
Monday, 29 July               Semifinals
Tuesday, 30 July               Placement Matches

Details: Link
(Note: Lima, Peru is 1 hour behind US ET)

Where to Watch:  The Pan American Sports Organization has a new online channel, but it is not clear which matches will be broadcast.  An earlier notice indicated that handball matches would not be broadcast until the Women’s Semifinals.  In the U.S., ESPN owns the rights to all PANAM Games content and has signaled that they will show content on ESPN Deportes and their OTT platform, ESPN+.  Again, it is not clear if and when handball will be shown. (Check back here on on the Team Handball News Facebook or Twitter pages for updates)

PANAM Sports Channel: Link

Team Profiles (Group A)

How qualified: 1st place at South American Games
Recent Pan American Results:
– 2015 Pan American Championship: 1st
– 2015 Pan American Games: 1st
– 2017 Pan American Championship: 1st
– 2018 South and Central American Championship: 1st
Key Player:  Left back, Eduarda “Duda” Amorim is considered one of the best players in the world.
Outlook:  To say that the Brazilian Women have dominated Pan American handball competitions is almost an understatement.  In multiple Pan American competitions over the past 10 years they are undefeated.  They are hands down the favorite to win the tournament.

Puerto Rico
How qualified: 2nd place at Central American and Caribbean Games
Recent Pan American Results:
– 2015 Pan American Championship: 4th
– 2015 Pan American Games: 6th
– 2017 Pan American Championship: 6th
– 2019 North American and Caribbean Championship: 2nd
Key Player:  Backcourt, Nathalys Ceballos, has been their primary offensive weapon.
Outlook:  Puerto Rico came within 3 goals of qualifying for the 2019 World Championships, losing to Cuba 27-24.  They’ll seek to avenge that defeat in Group Play in what will be a likely show down for 2nd place in the Group.

How qualified: 3rd place at Central American and Caribbean Games
Recent Pan American Results:
– 2015 Pan American Championship: 2nd
– 2015 Pan American Games: 5th
– 2017 Pan American Championship: Did not participate
– 2019 North American and Caribbean Championship: 1st
Key Player:  Left Back Lizandra Lusson has been Cuba’s top scorer for the last several years.  She was the top scorer at the 2015 PANAM Games and led her nation in scoring at the 2015 World Championships.
Outlook:  Cuba’s up and down performance can be directly correlated to whether their top European based players show up or not.  If they do, Cuba may well have the 2nd best team at the tournament.

How qualified: 1st place at 2nd Chance Qualification Tournament
Recent Pan American Results:
– 2015 Pan American Championship: 10th
– 2015 Pan American Games: 7th
– 2017 Pan American Championship: Did not participate
– 2019 North American and Caribbean Championship: 7th
Outlook:  The Canadian women were soundly defeated by the U.S. in the North American qualifier, but bounced back to win the 2nd chance tournament.  They are a younger side and will be looking to improve upon their disappointing performance earlier this year at the North American Championship


Team Profiles (Group B)

How qualified: 2nd place at South American Games
Recent Pan American Results:
– 2015 Pan American Championship: 3rd
– 2015 Pan American Games: 2nd
– 2017 Pan American Championship: 2nd
– 2018 South and Central American Championship: 2nd
Key Player:  Right Back, Luciano Mendoza, has been Argentina’s leading scorer for the past several years and Elke Karsten is an up and coming player who recently was signed by Hungarian club, Debrecen
Outlook:  The Argentine Women have been the perennial bridesmaid to Brazil in just about every Pan American competition for the past 20 years.  They are favorites to win Group B and if they do that could mean a semifinal match vs Cuba.

How qualified: Beat Canada in North American Qualification Series
Recent Pan American Results:
– 2015 Pan American Championship: 10th
– 2015 Pan American Games: Did not qualify
– 2017 Pan American Championship: 5th
– 2019 North American and Caribbean Championship: 5th
Key Players:  Center back, Jence Rhoads, is the conductor of the U.S. attack.  Left back, Nicole Andersen is the top scoring threat.
Outlook:  The USA Women failed to qualify for the 2015 PANAM Games and following that disappointment they set their sights on returning in 2019.  Mission accomplished, but they would like to do more than just compete and are focused on a semifinal berth.  The U.S. Women will be under dogs to Argentina, but a strong defensive performance coupled with a consistent offensive attack could provide a surprise.  Barring an upset there they will need to beat the Dominican Republic to reach the semifinals.

Dominican Republic
How qualified: 1st place at Central American and Caribbean Games
Recent Pan American Results:
– 2015 Pan American Championship: Did not participate
– 2015 Pan American Games: Did not qualify
– 2017 Pan American Championship: 8th
– 2019 North American and Caribbean Championship: 4th
Key Players:  Wings, Nancy Pena and Yojaver Brito have done the bulk of the scoring for the Dominican Republic in their recent competitions.
Outlook:  In 2014 the Dominican Republic was banned from Pan American competition for having played over-age players at the Women’s Youth Championship that they hosted back in 2010.  Their program is on the rebound as evidenced by the title win at the Central American and Caribbean Games.  A potential show down with the U.S. for 2nd place looms Thursday.

How qualified: Host Nation
Recent Pan American Results:
– 2015 Pan American Championship: Did not participate
– 2015 Pan American Games: Did not participate
– 2017 Pan American Championship: Did not participate
– 2018 South and Central American Championship: Did not participate
Key Players:  Unknown
Outlook:  Peru qualified as host nation and until recently does not appear to have even had a women’s national team.  At the 2018 South American Games they lost by an average of 37 goals to Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.  This lack of experience will be hard to overcome so playing competitive matches and perhaps winning a match in consolation play is about the best outcome that could be expected

Podcast (Episode 57): Preview of Men’s 2019 NORCA Beach Handball Championships with USA Coach, Michael Hinson

Team USA’s Beach Handball Specialist/Reality TV show Icon, Jacobo Garcia, and the rest of Team USA are ready to take the gold.















The 2019 North American and Caribbean Beach Handball Championships will start today (Thursday, 11 July)  in Trinidad & Tobago.  USA Men’s coach, Michael Hinson called in from Trinidad last night to talk about their preparation, the USA Men’s roster and their competition at the tournament.

Tournament Live Stream: Link

USA Men’s and Women’s Roster Announcement: Link

Tournament Groups
Group A: USA, Barbados, Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago, Dominica
Group B: Mexico, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, St Kitts & Nevis

USA Men’s Schedule (All times are Local / US ET)

Thursday, 11 July
10:30 AM USA vs Barbados
3:30 PM USA vs Haiti

Friday, 12 July
10:30 AM USA vs Trinidad & Tobago
1:00 PM USA vs Dominica

(Note:  The format for the Men’s competition has the top 2 teams from each group qualifying for the semifinals.  Teams placing 3rd to 5th will play consolation matches.)

Saturday, 13 July
TBD Semifinal

Sunday, 14 July
TBD Placing Match

USA Beach Handball Links
Website: Link
Facebook: Link
Twitter: Link
Instagram: Link

During the podcast, Michael and I talked about Jacobo Garcia’s 2nd place finish on the Telemundo Reality TV show Exatlon.  Here’s a few links:

Jacobo Garcia on Telemundo show Exatlon: Link
Jacobo Garcia Instagram: Link

Podcast (Episode 56): Preview of NORCA Beach Handball Championships with USA Women’s Coach, Juliano de Oliveira

Coach de Oliveira expects big things from newcomer circle runner, Christine Mansour. (Photo: Jochen Korn)

The North American and Caribbean Beach Handball Championships will take place this week at Turtle Beach, Trinidad & Tobago.  USA Women’s coach, Juliano De Oliveira and I talk about his handball origin story, the USA Women’s roster and their competition at the tournament.

Thanks to Right Turn Media for their help with editing the podcast audio: Link

USA Men’s and Women’s Roster Announcement: Link

Tournament Groups
Group A: USA, Barbados, St Kitts & Nevis, Trinidad & Tobago
Group B: Mexico, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Dominica

USA Women’s Schedule (All times are Local / US ET)

Thursday, 11 July
11:20 AM USA vs St Kitts & Nevis
5:10 PM USA vs Trinidad & Tobago

Friday, 12 July
12:10 PM USA vs Barbados

Saturday, 13 July
TBD Quarterfinal

Sunday, 14 July
TBD Semifinal
TBD Placing Match

USA Beach Handball Links
Website: Link
Facebook: Link
Twitter: Link
Instagram: Link

Final Day of Main Round Play:  The Math for the Semifinals, Olympic Qual Slots and 2nd Best Continent

Breaking News: NBC switches up schedule on final day of the Main Round.










NBC Makes a Smart Change to the Schedule

Today was shaping up to be a real bummer for American handball fans as NBC’s pre-planned schedule featured two Group I clashes: France vs Croatia and Spain vs Germany.  A few days ago that sounded pretty good, but in the intervening time Croatia suffered two defeats and Spain failed to pick up enough points to challenge for a semifinal.   This coupled with France and Germany having a clean slate (marred only by their head to head draw) meant the relatively rare occurrence of a final day of group play lacking any major drama.  Meaning that the scheduled TV clashes would be real yawners with France and Germany likely resting players ahead of the semifinals.  Fortunately, NBC has decided to switch up the schedule and show matches in Group II where there is more doubt as to who will advance.

Group II’s Math

NBC will now show Norway vs Hungary (Noon ET) and Sweden vs Denmark (2:30 PM) where 3 sides (Norway, Sweden and Denmark) all have chances to go through to the semifinals.  There are a number of different scenarios, but I’ll address the most likely ones in chronological order.  Norway will be playing Hungary first and will be favored to win.  If they win they are in pretty good shape to advance regardless of the outcome of the Sweden-Denmark match.  If they lose, however, they will need Sweden to also lose in order to advance.

Assuming Norway beats Hungary the math gets a little complicated when figuring out the different possibilities of a 3 way tie.  The simple math is that Sweden needs to win by 3 goals (and possibly 2) to bump Norway out of the 2nd slot.

From Denmark’s perspective they can lose by 3 goals and still keep the top slot.  Lose by 4 goals and they still advance as the 2nd seed.  But, lose by 6 (and possibly 5) they are out of the semifinals.  (All the math is at the bottom of this article).

So while Denmark is surely favored to continue their winning ways, Sweden has all to play for in the final match of the night.

Olympic Qualification Tournament Slots

While Group I semifinalists have been determined there are still Olympic Qualification Tournament slots at stake.  (Finishing 3rd or 4th should result in a qualification slot).  Brazil takes on Iceland in the first match of the day and a win there would give them 4 points and put them in a temporary tie with Spain and Croatia for 3rd place in the group.  Croatia then plays France and Spain takes on Germany.  Depending on how those matches play out there are a number of possibilities.  The simple math is that Spain is assured of finishing 3rd or 4th, Croatia can finish 3rd to 5th and Brazil can 4th or 5th.

In Group II, the non semifinalist amongst the group of 3 (Denmark, Sweden and Norway) is assured of finishing 3rd.  Hungary will likely finish 4th even if they lose Norway.  Egypt could catch them for 4th, but they would need to beat Tunisia and catch up on a 12 goal differential deficit.

2nd Best Continent

Thanks to Brazil’s upset victory over Croatia, Pan America currently has the advantage here.  If Brazil beats Iceland they will have 4 points in Group I which neither Tunisia nor Egypt will be able to match in Group II.  If, however, Brazil loses to Iceland an Egypt victory over Tunisia will see Egypt with 3 points to Brazil’s 2 points, giving Africa the slot.  Finally, Should Brazil lose and Egypt lose as well, that would result in Brazil being level with Tunisia, with 2 points each in Group play.  Should that happen, though, the next tie breaker is Preliminary round GD and Brazil has the edge there.

Detailed Math for the Denmark-Sweden match in the event there is 3 way tie for points between Denmark, Norway and Sweden

  • Denmark wins or draws: 1) Denmark, 2) Norway
  • Sweden wins by 1 goal: 1) Denmark, 2) Norway
  • Sweden wins by 2 goals and
    • Sweden scores 28 or fewer goals: 1) Denmark, 2) Norway
    • Sweden scores exactly 29 goals: 1) Denmark, 2) Norway or Sweden based on all matches
    • Sweden scores 30 or more goals: 1) Denmark, 2) Sweden
  • Sweden wins by 3 goals: 1) Denmark, 2) Sweden
  • Sweden wins by 4 goals: 1) Sweden, 2) Denmark
  • Sweden wins by exactly 5 goals and
    • Denmark scores 27 or more goals: 1) Sweden, 2) Denmark
    • Denmark scores exactly 26 goals: 1) Sweden, 2) Denmark or Sweden based on all matches
    • Denmark scores 25 or fewer goals: 1) Sweden, 2) Norway
  • Sweden wins by 6 goals or more: 1) Sweden, 2) Norway

Olympic Ramifications:  The Importance of Final Team Ranking and the Battle for 2nd Best Continent

Brazil celebrating after advancing to the Main Round. If they continue to do well it could mean an extra Olympic Qualification slot for Pan America.

There’s no arguing that handball isn’t a European dominated sport.  This is particularly true on the Men’s side where no non-European team has ever won the World Championship and only three nations, Egypt (2001), Tunisia (2005) and Qatar (2015) have even made the semifinals.

This year’s championship has seen 3 outsiders (Brazil, Tunisia and Egypt) join 9 European nations in advancing to the Main Round.  In doing so, I don’t think many observers would assess that they don’t belong.  Brazil beat Serbia and Russia in preliminary play.  Tunisia took out Austria while Egypt drew with Hungary, actually taking a point with them into the Main Round.

Still, while they belong it’s hard to see any of these teams making the semifinals.  Heck picking up any points in Main Round play could be a challenge.  But, while heading to Hamburg for the semifinals may be a longshot they still have a shot at securing an Olympic Qualification Tournament slot and securing an extra slot for their continental federation

Team Ranking and Olympic Qualification

The Olympic Qualification Process is a bit convoluted and involves a bit of dominoes.  Wikipedia has a good page summarizing it in detail:  Link

Here’s the cliff notes version focused on the ongoing World Championships.  The champion will automatically qualify for the 2020 Olympics.  Places 2nd-7th will qualify for an Olympic Qualification Tournament.  However, there’s a pretty high probability that the 2020 European Champion will belong to one of those nations that place 2nd-7th.  And, this means that those places will shift down 1 spot ultimately resulting in the 8th place team getting an Olympic Qualification Tourney bid.

But, wait there’s more.  It’s also possible that the same thing could happen with Pan America and Africa, should Brazil, Egypt or Tunisia finish 8th or better and then go on to win the PANAM Games or the African Championship.  And, theoretically, it could happen with both continents, meaning that even 10th place could secure an Olympic Qualification Tourney bid.  The complication which is somewhat confusing is that it’s not certain these nations will win their continental titles and we’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

Continent Ranking and Olympic Qualification                 

But, wait there’s still more.  The Olympic Qualification Tourneys also have slots awarded to the continental federations.  Each continent is granted 1 slot and the best and 2nd best continental federation at the preceding World Championships are granted an extra slot each.  Assuming a European team wins the title this means Pan America and Africa will battle for 2nd best.  And, this will be determined simply by which nation (Brazil, Egypt or Tunisia) finishes highest.

This ranking will be straight forward if any of those 3 nations places 4th or higher in their Main Round Group as that nation will then play in a placement match.  We could even theoretically with have a head to head continental matchup like Brazil vs Egypt for 7th place.  If, however, those teams finish 5th or 6th, their ranking for 9th-12th place will be as follows:

The teams that are in 5th place will be ranked 9th/10th and the teams that are in 6th place will be ranked 11th/12th.  Order for 9th/10th will be decided by 1) points in the Main Round and then by 2) Goal differential in the preliminary round.  Currently, these rules have Egypt in first place, Brazil 2nd and Tunisia 3rd.

  • Egypt: 1) 1 pt in the Main Round; 2) -1 GD in preliminary play
  • Brazil: 1) 0 pts in the Main Round; 2) -15 GD in preliminary play
  • Tunisia 1) 0 pts in the Main Round; 2) -24 GD in preliminary play

So, what does all of this mean?  Well, it means everyone in Pan America has a rooting interest in seeing Brazil do well and for Egypt and Tunisia to lose.  If Brazil can finish higher than the African nations it will result in 2 Olympic Qualification Tournament slots for Pan America meaning that both the 2nd and 3rd place nations at the PANAM Games will qualify for an Olympic Qualification Tournament slot.

Colleges as a Jump Starter: Handball Inside’s interview with Jean Brihault, the IHF’s point man on U.S. development

Jean Brihault, the IHF’s point man for handball development in the U.S.

Colleges as a Jump Starter

The former EHF president, Jean Brihault (France), about his role as USA delegate for the IHF, the investments of the World Handball Federation and the central role of colleges and universities for the development of U.S. Handball.

How did the thought come about to foster Handball in the US?

JEAN BRIHAUT: It is an IHF tradition to meet the need to promote larger markets outside Europe. This is mainly about the markets in China and in the USA.  Also, because in 2028 – ten years from now – the Olympic Games will take place in Los Angeles.  And, if you want to know why I am in charge of it?: I am free, I have experience, I speak English, and because I have worked at universities in Europe, I have contacts with the presidents of American universities.  Besides, I’m not a danger to anyone.

The idea of helping handball in the US is not new.

BRIHAULT:  That’s right, but one crucial point was to split North and South America into two continental federations.  This means, among other things, that – unlike previous qualifications – the U.S. now has a realistic chance to qualify for international competitions and world championships. In addition, the Organizing Committee for LA 2028 was a very important factor in deciding future cooperation.  Until then, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the US Handball Association hardly talked to each other.  Only gradually did the association, together with representatives of the USOC and with the support of a professional agency, come up with a convincing concept which has now been published. That is important because the USOC allocates funds to each of the national sports associations, and now Handball can receive support in the form of money, time and expertise.

And has the situation for the association improved a little?

BRIHAULT: As Dr. Hassan Moustafa and I were in the States in March, we met representatives of a foundation that immediately provided the Handball association with three fully furnished offices and a meeting room.  This is now the new home of the US Handball Federation and the North American Association.  There is enough space for both.  That way you can utilize synergy effects and save a lot of money.  The first six months are completely rent-free and after that the US federation only has to pay for electricity and heating.

That’s nice, but not that much. How does the IHF help?

BRIHAULT: The IHF is currently investing in a – let’s call it – a Development Manager, primarily responsible for finding sponsors for the US association.  The IHF pays him, but that can be confidently called an investment, as we firmly believe it will make a profit.  In addition, the USOC will pay for a Technical Director who is in charge of development, training and education programs.  You should know that the whole project is based on three pillars: high level performance, fundamentals and visibility.

This means?

BRIHAULT: For the performance, the association has hired Robert Hedin formerly coach of the Norwegian national team for the men.  For the women, there is an agreement with the French federation that the U.S. team can partake in one of their leagues on a non-competitive basis.  We are thinking about a start in the 3rd league for the season 2020/21.  In terms of visibility, I met with a manager from NBC to get handball on TV.  This is difficult because we do not have to address the classic Handball audience.  Thus, broadcasts of complete games are of little use.  Instead, we want to show sequences that will make our sport attractive to people in the US.  And, where contacts are concerned, we will try, among other things, to bring protagonists on board who are well-known in Europe and are in charge of the U.S. market.  Hans Vestberg, President of the Swedish Federation, is involved as is Xavier 0 ‘Callaghan, who is part of the management of FC Barcelona for the U.S.

How many players are we talking, when talking about Handball in the US?

BRIHAULT: That’s hard to say. That’s why I met with leaders of different colleges because they have to be involved if we want to give Handball a broad base. From there, the impetus has to start to make Handball popular.

And this project spans for the next ten years – so up to the Olympic Games in Los Angeles?

BRIHAULT: It should run as long as possible.  Part of this project will be to give the U.S. teams a wild card for the 2025 and 2027 World Cups so they can play handball at the absolute world level. I remember the people in Atlanta in 1996 were thrilled.  More than 30,000 spectators attended the final.  That is fantastic.

Interview by Arnulf Beckmann
Translation courtesy of Christa Ingram

Podcast (Episode 52): An Education on Cuban Handball

Just like Spicoli, I get some “learning about Cuba.” (Well, maybe not like Spicoli.)










For many, and for sure myself, Cuban handball, has always been an enigma.  For every tournament staged in Pan America they are the question mark.  Will they show up and, if they do, what kind of a team will they bring?  How have they fielded strong teams in the past?  Could they return to greatness?  How is handball organized and structured there anyway?

To answer these questions and more, I sat down with USA Women’s Asst Coach, Julio Sainz, who grew up in Cuba and has followed Cuban handball for years.

If one looks at the totality of Pan American handball history a strong argument could be made that their Men’s program of the 1980’s and 90’s was the very best program of all time with a string of Pan American titles and a bevy of players becoming top pros in Europe.  The Women’s program hasn’t been as strong, but also has shown signs of progress.

Cuban Men’s Team: Link
Cuban Women’s Team: Link

Now, with the pending split of Pan America into two separate federations, Cuba will instantaneously be a contender for titles.  Indeed, with the possibility of athletes playing in Europe (without first having to defect) could they even become a world power?