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

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

  • How do nations qualify for the Olympics: Link

Short Answers

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

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

U.S. Men

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

USA Women

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

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