The 2023 Men’s World Cup a focus during a busy year for USA Basketball
In a year where the USA Basketball Men’s National Team competes in the final Men’s World Cup Qualifying window in February and the subsequent 2023 FIBA World Cup in late August into September, Sean Ford knows the U.S. has to live up to its gold standard of excellence.
Ford, USA Basketball Men’s National Team Director, recognizes that the last time the USA played in the FIBA World Cup in 2019, it fell short of the gold medal goal. The seventh-place finish wasn’t where the USA aspired to be. And in 2023, the mission for the USA is to re-establish itself atop the World Cup podium.
“It’s still fresh in our minds that we finished seventh in 2019,” Ford said. “We felt like we were better than the seventh-place team. But the margin of error was very small, and that ended up with us being in seventh place. We look forward to an opportunity to do better and to represent our country in a way that everyone would be proud of – we look forward to competing.”
The U.S. will play its World Cup games in Manila, a metro positioned in the Philippines adjacent to Manila Bay, a small inlet in the South China Sea. Additionally, the U.S. will play five exhibition games in the weeks leading up to the World Cup. But before any World Cup fun takes place, the U.S. needs to take care of business in World Cup Qualifying, where it appears to be in a favorable position heading into the final two games.
If the U.S.(8-2) wins both games against Uruguay on Feb. 23 and Brazil on Feb. 26, it qualifies for the World Cup. If the U.S. loses to Uruguay, it would need to also lose to Brazil by more than 70 points to fall out of the World Cup Qualifying position. The U.S. has never lost a game by a 70-point margin.
“We feel very confident about where we are at,” Ford said.
Amid a World Cup year are a host of additional competitions where the U.S. will look to take home gold. Those events include the U16 Americas Championship and U19 World Cup. The FIBA Men’s U16 Americas Championship and the FIBA Men’s U19 World Cup take place from late May to early July.
For the U19 World Cup, USA Basketball will travel to Debrecen, Hungary, following training camp in Colorado Springs. The U16 Americas Championship location is still to be announced.
The U19 World Cup presents the U.S. with an opportunity to make history. No nation has ever three-peated in what some regard as the toughest competition at the junior national team level dating back to 1979. With gold medals in 2021 and 2019, a third straight title is available for the USA if it can play up to its given standard. If the U.S. can capture gold, it would mark the ninth gold medal for USA Basketball in competition history.
At the U16 level, the USA has yet to lose a game, holding a 37-0 record while also laying claim to seven gold medals. This summer, USA Basketball aspires to continue its level of competitiveness at the junior national team level.
“We are very excited about the junior national team and the structure that is there,” Ford said. “For the summer of 2021 and 2022, we were able to maintain success in competitions. So this year, there is a lot to be optimistic about with our teams in a big summer.”
Additionally, USA Basketball will host an April Junior National Team training camp in conjunction with the NCAA Final Four in Houston, the annual Nike Hoop Summit in Portland and an October Junior National Team minicamp. Each event will provide USA Basketball an opportunity to showcase and evaluate some of the most talented athletes in the junior national team pipeline.
Whether it’s a World Cup, junior national team event or anything in between, one sentiment remains true.
“We will always get everybody's best,” Ford said. “People know we’ve had a lot of success at a lot of different levels of basketball. Everyone loves to play against the United States. It comes with the territory, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.”