The talented U.S. men's water polo team will attempt to recreate their silver-medal finish at the 2008 Olympics this summer in London at the 2012 Summer Games.
The team is loaded with veterans that helped bring the water polo program back up to elite status after a 20-year drought four years ago. Team captain Tony Azevedo leads the way, and Team USA is in prime position to finish on the podium once again.
I'll fill you in on the team roster, the key players to watch, the team's top competition and give you my prediction for how the team will fare.
The American men's water polo final roster, according to USAWaterPolo.org's official Olympic Media Guide:
Merrill Moses (New York Athletic Club [NYAC])
Chay Lapin (NYAC)
Layne Beaubien (NYAC)
Peter Hudnut (NYAC)
Tim Hutten (Newport Water Polo Foundation [WPF])
Jeff Powers (Newport WPF)
Jesse Smith (NYAC)
Ryan Bailey (Newport WPF)
John Mann (NYAC)
Tony Azevedo (NYAC)
Peter Varellas (Olympic Club)
Adam Wright (NYAC)
Shea Buckner (NYAC)
Merrill Moses (Goalkeeper)
Moses has been a stalwart for Team USA at every major event since 2007. His stellar play in 2008 was one of the biggest reasons why the team won a silver medal, and he was awarded a spot on the Olympic All-Star team to honor his contributions.
One of the best players in the world, Moses likes to get into the head of his opponent, according to NBCOlympics.com:
...he’s constantly directing his teammates from his spot in front of the net. He calls himself very intimidating and even during intra-squad practices he’ll try to get in his teammates’ heads when they’re trying to score on him.
If Team USA is to go on another run for a medal in 2012, Moses will need to be a key player once again.
Jeff Powers (Defender)
Powers, at 6'7", is a mountain of a man, and he uses his exceptional size and length to full advantage in the water.
Despite the fact that Powers is a defender, he's also one of the premier goal-scorers for Team USA. He led the team with 11 goals in their Olympic qualifying, gold-medal run at the Pan American Games, proving that labels don't mean a thing.
Ryan Bailey (Center)
Bailey is one of the team's senior members, and he'll be playing in his fourth Olympics in 2012. He is also the anchor at the center position, known as "two meter." He is a key player on offense, setting up plays and making plenty of goals on his own.
Bailey talked about his role with NBCOlympics.com, saying:
I play right in front of the goal, that's my position, kind of like the center in basketball. It gets bad. I've been choked, I've had my eyes gouged…Pretty much everything you can think of, it happens. I've had 80 or so stitches in my face. It gets pretty ugly sometimes.
Ugly it may be, but Bailey is a genius in the water, and he'll be a big key to America's success in London.
Tony Azevedo (Attacker)
The team captain, Azevedo is also appearing in his fourth Olympics. He is the premier goal scorer for the team, and he led the way in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, earning a spot on the Olympic All-Star team.
Azevedo is one of the best players in the world, according to NBCOlympics.com. He is a prodigious goal scorer, and he once scored 19 goals at the 2007 World Championships.
You can't talk about the world's best water polo teams without starting with Hungary. The Hungarians have won the last three gold medals, and they will certainly be the team to beat once again in 2012.
They are riding a 17-game Olympic winning streak, according to the AP, and they will be tough to overcome in London.
Serbia won the 2012 World Championship gold medal, and they feature two of the top players in the world, Vanja Udovicic and Filip Filipovic.
According to the same AP report, American coach Terry Schroeder talked about the Serbian team: "Serbia has certainly been the most consistent team over the last three years. They've been really the top team and I think they have the most balanced team right now."
The Croatians feature a strong attack, and they beat Serbia in the 2011 World Championships.
Team USA recently competed against Croatia in the semifinals of the FINA World League Super Final, and they lost a heartbreaker to the Croatians, 11-10.
The Eastern Europeans are dominant in the water, and Team USA will have their hands full competing against all three teams.
Team USA has struggled to come away with victories in pivotal matches of late.
They lost out on medal chances at the world championships in 2009, the World Cup in 2010 and the World League Super Final in 2012.
They will be competing in a ridiculously tough Group B in London, which includes Montenegro, Serbia and Hungary—some of the top teams in the world.
If the Americans can make their way out of that group, they have a chance of earning a medal. That said, it's going to be a brutal battle just to get out of the group.
Prediction: The U.S. men's water polo team will finish outside of medal contention.