The biannual event is here!
July 13, 2019 by Daniel Prentice in Preview with 0 comments
Ultiworld’s coverage of U24 Worlds is presented by VC Lookfly; all opinions are those of the author. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at VC Lookfly!
51 teams from 29 different countries have sent their best players under the age of 24 to Heidelberg, Germany, for the WFDF 2019 World U24 Championships. With international powerhouses and newcomers alike, and the game’s most exciting young players in attendance, it should be a fun glimpse into the future of the sport and a showcase of some entertaining ultimate.
18 teams will compete for the three podium sports in the Men’s Division. They’re split up into two pools of nine teams each, and the top four teams in each pool will advance to quarters.
The United States enters as heavy favorites to win gold. They’re three for three on gold medals at this competition1 and have never lost a game. The roster is littered with players who’ve found plenty of success at the highest levels of the game in the states and a few who’ve already won gold at the U24 level. Eric Taylor won gold with the Men’s team in 2018; Tannor Johnson and Tim Schoch both won gold with the Mixed team.
The expectation is that the Americans will win gold, and the question tends to be just how dominant will be they on their route to another U24 championship. There are a couple of teams who will be capable of knocking them out in the bracket, but they shouldn’t have much trouble in pool play.
Germany and Japan are good bets to advance out of Pool A behind the U.S. The Germans made the semifinals at the same tournament in 2018 and the Japanese have previous silver and bronze medal finished in their history.
Great Britain and Colombia are poised to battle it out for the last quarters spot out of the pool, but neither are likely to challenge for a medal.
Austria, Chinese Taipei, Denmark, and Panama round out the pool and will hope to play the role of spoiler.
Pool B should offer a little more excitement with a trio of teams that all have hopes of medaling. Italy took home silver in Perth and led the United States 10-7 in the gold medal game. They’ve been one of the strongest and quickest growing teams in international play in recent years, and they could present an even stronger challenge to the U.S. this year. With 2018 standouts Luca Tognetti and Michele Angella (along with most of their other top contributers) back for another go-round, they present a very real threat to the Americans’ gold medal dominance of the competition.
First, though, they’ll have to deal with 2018 bronze medalists Australia and three-time medalists Canada in the pool. How the three finish in the pool will go a long way in determining who ends up on the podium. As Canada proved last year, avoiding an early meeting with the United States is key. It should be a bit easier for this teams with the straight to quarters format, however. Don’t be surprised if each of them make it to semifinals with the U.S.
Switzerland will be challenged for the final quarters spot by an Ireland team featuring Andrew Cleary, who just finished competing at the European Championships with the senior Irish National team. The winner between those two is likely to get the U.S. in quarters. The rest of the pool is rounded out by New Zealand, China, Russia, and Belgium.
The largest division of the tournament with 21 teams, the mixed division has three pools of five teams, and one pool of six. The top three teams in each of those pools move onto two power pools of six teams each. The top four teams in each power pool make the bracket.
Just like in Men’s, the United States Mixed team has won gold every year they’ve competed and have never lost a game. With a roster featuring some of the biggest stars from the last two seasons of the American college men’s and women’s divisions, it would be a shock for the U.S.’s run of dominance to come to a close this year.
Expect the U.S. to play a fun brand of ultimate, with two of the best huckers in the women’s game in Ashley Powell and Lindsay McKenna airing it out to some of the game’s best male deep threats in Joe White, Michael Ing, and Joe Freund.
Despite the loaded roster, though, the United States is not in for a cakewalk through pool play. Great Britain, France, Netherlands, and Latvia are all capable of making quarterfinals. The British finished seventh in Perth and have won gold and bronze medals in the past, and the French roster features a handful of players from the U20 boys team that took bronze in Waterloo last year.
The Dutch won’t have Ben Oort, which is a shame as he’s one of the most talented young players in the world, but they’ll still have Floor Keulartz and Walt Jansen, who should help the team threaten for a semis spot.
Latvia’s Arvids Orlovskis has been competing internationally since 2013 and was one of the biggest stars of last year’s U20 tournament. He’s height will cause a matchup problem for any team the Latvians square off against, including the Americans, but he’s reportedly playing through injury and may be limited in his effectiveness.
The team that gave the U.S. its toughest test in Perth — Japan — is the top dog in Pool B. There aren’t many carryovers from that team, but they did push the Americans to a 13-11 final scoreline in the gold medal game to claim their second-ever medal in the division. They should be contenders for a third this time around.
Colombia is the favorite for second in the pool, but it’d be a surprise if they made a real run at a medal, while Hong Kong, Sweden, and Mexico will duke it out for the third power pool qualification spot.
Pool C is headlined by Canada, who have medaled every time they’ve competed at the tournament. Most the of country’s biggest names are playing on the men’s and women’s teams — though Toronto 6ixers’ Reve Chan does bring some valuable experience at the most competitive levels of the sport — but historically Canada has had a deep enough talent pool to put out a competitive team in the mixed division regardless.
Germany will be quarters contenders, but along with China, Italy, and the Czech Republic, anyone in Pool C outside of Canada claiming a medal is unlikely.
Australia has made semifinals in each of the last two competitions, including a silver medal in 2015, and they should have little trouble topping pool D. They’ve loaded up the women’s side of the roster, adding four players that were on the Women’s U24 team last cycle, and that experience should be a major asset this time around. Australia is a lock to make power pools and should be in the hunt for a medal once again.
They will have to play an extra pool play game for their trouble, though, as Pool D is the only pool with six teams. Singapore, Spain, Ireland, Poland and South Africa, the lone African side at the tournament, will be the teams competing for the two other power pool spots, but it’s doubtful that any of them would make much noise once there.
Half of the field of 12 teams will be eliminated after five games of pool play. The top three finishers from two pools of six will move to power pool play. Each team in the power pool will play three games against the three teams that weren’t in their original pool.
After each team has played their three power play games, record and goal difference will determine the final standings with the top four teams advancing directly to the semifinals.
The United States, once again, is the obvious favorite, though not as prohibitively so as in the other two divisions. The Women’s team is the only American U24 team to ever lose a game, as well as the only team that hasn’t won gold every year in which the country has competed.
The roster is an interesting blend of players who’ve already played at this level like Angela Zhu, Julianna Werffeli, and Claire Trop, and remarkably young players, some of which haven’t even started their college careers yet.2 They still have an incredibly talented roster, but the team’s youth does offer a potential weakness that this team doesn’t tend to have.
The Americans’ toughest competition in pool play will be Colombia. Manuela and Valeria Cardenas have been playing international ultimate seemingly forever3 and will be two of the best players at the tournament. Colombia’s depth is better than it’s been, too. Maria Santos, Carolina Arcila, Valentina Gomez, and Alejandra Uribe all played with Medellin Revolution in the Premier Ultimate League this year. They’re strong contenders to win their first ever medal at this level, after coming up just short of bronze in 2018.
Germany, led by Eurostar Levke Walczak, is likely to claim the third power pool spot out of Pool A, with New Zealand, Switzerland, and Belgium trying to upset the expected balance of power.
Pool B has three strong medal contenders in Canada, Australia, and Japan. Canada, in particular, seems as though they will pose as a real challenger for the gold medal with the U.S. In 2015, the took bronze, they took silver last year, and will put a team with loads of elite level experience on the field in Heidelberg.
They have four players on top Canadian club team Toronto 6ixers’ roster, the most notable of which are Anouchka Beaudry, Laura Kinoshita, and Britt Dos Santos; a fifth that was on the roster last year in Lana Ramic; and several elite players from the Vancouver scene like sisters Collefas and Zellema Mot, Janelle Siwa, and Julia Zhang.
They all have experience at the highest levels of college and club, and a fair bit of success there, as well. It’s not fair to say they have the same level of star power as the U.S., but they definitely have enough to consider them serious gold medal hopefuls.
Australia and Japan don’t have the same type of loaded roster as the Canadians, but they’re both still virtual locks to make it to the power pool. Japan, the only team other than the U.S. to win gold since the Americans started competing, will be trying to get back on the podium after coming up empty in 2018. Australia, who won gold back in 2010, will be hoping to finish on the podium for the second straight time after getting bronze in 2018.
Great Britain, Italy, and Ireland are the teams that will be trying to knock off one of three powers to sneak into power pool play.
The United States did not compete at the inaugural tournament in 2010. ↩
Abby Hecko is set to start her freshman season at Washington in the fall; Stacy Gaskill will play at Colorado. ↩
And they still have two more cycles of eligibility! ↩