Argentina and USA, the American representatives in the Pro League

December 20, 2023

Argentina and USA, the American representatives in the Pro League

Competing with the best makes you better. It elevates your category, demands levels you hadn't thought of. It pushes you to the limit to learn and grow. Argentina (3rd in the international women's ranking) has been in the Top 5 in the world for a while, but the United States (15th) hasn't, and yet it has a long-term plan to stay on that path and break into the top 10 strongest teams on the planet.

The first challenge for the North Americans begins in less than a month: from January 13, 2024, the team will have the opportunity to compete in the qualifiers for the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris. However, the bigger goal is at home: Los Angeles 2028, and in between is the Pro League with excellent squads.

The current coach of the United States, David Passmore – assisted by the Argentine Javier Telechea – knows that the challenge is significant. Especially because the team wants to return to the top of hockey, a position it lost in the last decade. The project's goal spans at least one cycle, a four-year period that includes, at a minimum, each of the most important FIH tournaments. The Paris event marks the beginning of their journey, and they don't want to waste it.

After a great performance in the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, in October and November – a tournament that offered a direct spot to the champion – where they contested the final against Las Leonas and lost narrowly, 2-1, the team faces the first major commitment of the season: the Olympic Qualifier in India. In their group, they will face the host (6th in the world), New Zealand (9th), and Italy (19th), while the other group includes Chile (14th), Germany (5th), Japan (11th), and the Czech Republic (25th). The top three teams will secure their place in the event in the French capital in July 2024.

Regardless of whether they achieve the coveted spot, the League follows, allowing them to compete with the world's best teams and maintain a high level of training while facing Top 10 powerhouses consecutively. In all editions, they finished last or ninth, but in 2022/23, relegation was introduced, complicating their stability. However, New Zealand's withdrawal allowed them to stay in the competition and compete again in the 2023/24 season. The United States had a new lease of life.

Argentina's track record in this tournament doesn't have many similarities; their results were good. But they share something: 50 percent of the Top 10 worldwide comes from Europe. The other half is divided among America (one spot for Argentina), Asia (two), and Oceania (two). For this reason, this competition regulated by the Federation is important for Pan American teams. It's difficult, in terms of budget and schedule or distance, to organize tours to understand each team's position and compare situations. The Pro League is a golden opportunity.

The first time Las Leonas participated was in 2019, where they finished fourth. Then second, until they claimed the trophy in 2021/22, only to finish second again behind their absolute rival, the Netherlands, in 2022/23. Argentina, already assured a spot in the Olympic Games after the continental gold, now has until July to use this competition as its sole ally to analyze opponents and self-assess. The white and sky-blue team comes from a series where they lost by the largest margin in history to the Dutch: 7-1 in Santiago del Estero. The competition is part of the preparation for the Olympic Games.

Even though their realities are different, both teams have a unique opportunity to be present and cross paths with the world's best teams. In men's hockey, the only American team is Los Leones.

The next appointment for the team led by Fernando Ferrara will be in February, at home, against Belgium (4th) and Germany (5th). For the United States, the wheel will start turning in February, right after the Olympic Qualifier in the same location, in India, against the host (6th), the Netherlands (1st), Australia (2nd), and China (10th).

Argentina and the United States have different journeys, but they share some common aspects, one of which is the privilege of being two of the nine teams playing in the Pro League.

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