Tournament Preview: Junior MNT take on World Championships
by Matthew Collins
USA Team Handball's Junior Men's National Team are set to compete at the 2023 IHF Junior Men's World Championships, co-hosted by Germany and Greece, with play beginnning on June 20th.
The United States qualified for the tournament on account of a second place finish at the NACHC Jr. Men's Championships in December 2022.
The squad, led by Head Coach Danilo Rojevic, has nine players who competed at the 2022 NACHC Jr. Men's Championships who will be a part of the team at the World Championships.
In addition, several players on the World Championship roster have experience with the US at the Youth or Senior Level, including Maksim McCauley, who has Senior National Team experience, playing in the Pan American Games qualifiers versus Canada in March.
Four players for the USA squad play their club handball at colleges in the US with Mark Miller, Gary Phillips, and Samuel Proctor playing for the United States Military Academy at West Point and Connor Reed representing the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
The United States was slotted into Group A for the tournanment, meaning their group stage matches will be played in Magdeburg, Germany at the Getec Arena. Poland, France, and Croatia round out Group A.
The United States opens up play against Poland, who finished 13th at the most recent European Junior Championship.
In their second match of the tournament, the Americans square off against France, who finished 6th at the 2022 European Junior Championship to lock in their spot for the World Championship. The French won the most recent Junior Men's World Championship in 2019, defeating fellow groupmate Croatia 28:23 in the final, as the 2021 edition of the tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Laslty, a Friday match versus Croatia will complete the group play for the USA. Croatia qualified for the World Championships alongside Poland in an European qualification tournament in Italy in January.
Their place in the group stage will determine the American's fate in the next round of the competition, with the top 2 teams in the group advancing to the main round, and 3rd and 4th place in the group heading to the President's Cup.
When asked about the importance of the tournament and the expectations of the squad, Head Coach Danilo Rojevic said, "This is the ultimate challenge for this generation of players and this country. It’s undeniable the team has made significant progress in a record time, but, this week, we will be facing the top of the top. Our goals are simple: we want to build players for the future and be more fluent in handball terms. This team has the skills to deliver. It’s all in their hands."
All tournament matches will be streamed on the International Handball Federation (IHF) YouTube Channel.
Stay tuned to USA Team Handball's social media for updates throughout the tournament.