The US Men’s National Water Polo Team defeated Canada in a taut 9-8 semifinal victory at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games on Monday. The win nearly assured a spot for the Americans at next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
USA DEFEATS CANADA 9-8 and the march to #Rio2016 moves on. Team USA will now await Brazil-Argentina result to see if they have qualified.
— USA Water Polo (@USAWP) July 13, 2015
The winner of the Toronto tournament earns an automatic bid to the Rio games a year from now. Though not the only route to the Olympics for Team USA it is the most direct. For that reason, winning Pan Ams has been been the primary focus of leadership within the US men’s program for many months according to people close to it. By qualifying this far in advance the team can continue to experiment with a pipeline of new, younger athletes rather than locking in a fixed group of veterans who are more assured of qualifying for the Olympics via the much tougher FINA World Championships at the end of the month.
Today’s win over Canada puts the Americans in the Pan Ams gold medal match versus the winner of the Brazil-Argentina semifinal later this evening. A win by Brazil in that game would automatically reserve a place for the USA in Rio since the host nation always gets a spot in the tournament regardless of the outcome of the Pan Am tournament, the official qualifier for water polo nations in North and South America. The Americans will earn the region’s automatic slot no matter the outcome of a USA-Brazil gold medal tussle.
Brazil is expected to beat their traditional South American rivals, Argentina, in the semifinal matchup. The two sides met earlier in the year with Brazil winning 17-5. That late January match took place before several key members of the much-improved Brazil squad were fully integrated, and Argentina has struggled against UANA competition in recent years.
The USA men fell to Brazil in an epic shootout at the World League Super Final in Bergamo, Italy.