The 2016 National Futures Championship kicks off today in Lancaster, Pennsylvania at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex! While the U14s will still compete in mixed up teams, the nation's top U16 and U19 field hockey players will compete in teams by region for the first time ever. Each team participated in a regional training weekend in preparation for the championship and it will be interesting to see if the additional preparation makes a difference and makes this a more team-play event than an individual event as it has been in the past.
The championship spans a full week and starts off with the U16 age group, followed by the U14s, and finishes off the U19 age group.
U16s: Wednesday, June 22th - Friday, June 24th
U14s: Friday, June 24th - Sunday, June 26th
U19s: Monday, June 27th - Wednesday, June 29th
What's on the line?
1) AAU Junior Olympic selections will be made. Approximately 128 U16 athletes. The Junior Olympics are August 2-6 in Houston, Texas.
2) Junior National Camp selections will be made (where players can then be selected for either the U17, U19 or U21 Junior National Teams). Approximately 30 athletes per age group. Junior National Camp is July 3-6 at Spooky Nook Sports in Lancaster, PA.
3) Stars and Stripes Game selections will be made (New in 2016!). At the end of each age division's competition, the top 72 athletes (U16 and U19) and top 36 athletes (U14) will be selected to compete in the Stars and Stripes Game, where they have an additional opportunity to showcase their talent.
Team Competition- With the change to the regional format (at least for the U16s and U19s), there should be a bit more regional and team pride in the competition and more of an interest in the outcome of the championship. Teams had a chance to bond and come together as a unit during their regional training weekend's and USA Field Hockey secured an impressive list of college and other high level coaches to work with the teams. We think those coaches will be highly invested in their team's success, especially after the added preparation.
U16 & U19 Predictions?
The Pennsylvania teams are going to be tough to beat. They contain not just some of, but a lot of the top talent in the nation. If you look at the U19 rosters, almost every single player on those lists was selected as either a Top 5, Top 50 or Next 50 player in MAX Field Hockey's recent Player Rankings and the U16 rosters are much of the same.
If we had to pick teams to win it all, we'd have to go with Region 5's Team Montreal (PA) for the U16s and for the U19s- either Team Athens or Team London. But who knows- thats the fun of the nation's top players coming together to compete in this type of environment in teams.. its not just about the individuals this year, its about which teams can come together and be the most successful!
WHAT DO YOU THINK?