The United States-Canada rivalry is about to add another chapter to its legendary history.
This time, the two countries will wield sticks, helmets and more in an all-out war that kicks off the 2014 FIL World Lacrosse Championships, a tournament that features a record 38 nations and spans 142 matches over the course of just 10 days.
Even better, the showdown between the two countries goes down just hours after the opening ceremony and also happens to be a rematch of the hotly contested 2010 championship game. Bill Schoonmaker, chief operating officer for U.S. Lacrosse, put the magnitude of the matchup into perspective, per the tournament's website:
We couldn’t ask for a more exciting game to open the World Championships than to have the top two teams in the world facing off. This will be one of many great opportunities fans will experience at the largest international lacrosse event in history.
Let's take a look at the details surrounding the event.
What: USA vs. Canada to kick off 2014 FIL World Lacrosse Championship
When: Thursday, July 10, at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Denver, Colorado
Note: Full U.S. broadcast info can be found here, and Full International broadcast info can be found here., via WorldLacrosse2014.com. Complete list of Divisions and matchups can be found here, via NLL.com.
That championship match just four years ago saw the United States emerge triumphant 12-10, netting the country its ninth world title.
While yet another crowning achievement, this time MVP and All-World selection Paul Rabil leads a new-look American side that features just three other players from the gold-medal-winning team. With him are attackmen Ned Crotty and Brendan Mundorf and fellow midfielder Max Seibald.
For his part, Rabil seems more than excited to be back on the field:
One more practice, then packing up for the DU dorms and team bunker. 1 day out from Opening Ceremonies and Team Canada. #USAMLAX— Paul Rabil (@PaulRabil) July 9, 2014
Assuredly a diverse bunch, the 23-man roster with two alternates was assembled through an 11-month tryout process that saw 98 players participate. The journey and subsequent training makes for quite the story, which US Lacrosse illustrates:
The senior-most member of the squad, though, has been named captain. Kevin Leveille, on the roster as an alternate four years ago and now 32 years of age, assumed the role on the recommendation of his teammates.
"A couple people threw my name out and no one else was going, so I kind of just ran with it," Leveille told Corey McLaughlin of Lacrosse Magazine. "It's been a great start to the week for us. Being together as a group and feeling it grow organically. It's a really smart and advanced group. It's been a lot of fun so far."
Currently a member of Major League Lacrosse's Rochester Rattlers, Leveille is the league's all-time leading goal scorer and has been in the mix to make the roster since 2002.
There are other eye-popping human-interest stories, too. For example, Garrett Thul made the final roster and was given an exemption from the U.S. Army in order to compete in the tournament:
But to paint in more broad strokes, the Boston Cannon's Ryan Boyle—who played for the U.S. in three FIL tournaments—writes on the tournament's website that the fierce rivalry with the Canadians has taken a more competitive twist in recent years:
This year, I truly believe the U.S. and Canada are evenly matched. While Team USA's historical dominance of the sport speaks for itself, Canada has won three of the last four matchups (2006 championship, 2010 round robin and 2012 Duel in Denver). In the past, their roster featured fish out of water—box players doing their best within the field parameters. Now they have significantly more depth with legitimate NCAA and MLL experience.
Boyle also explains an interesting narrative of the tournament—teammates in the MLL suddenly find themselves enemies when the international spectacle begins:
Which team wins the opener?
"The rivalry seeps off the field as well," he said. "Outside of the games themselves, teams typically stay in nearby dorms and live a campus lifestyle, including meals at the cafeteria. Your most hated rival could belly up at the next table over."
So not only is the rivalry the most prestigious and historic in the sport, but the players on each side also know each other all too well.
It all boils over to start things off at this year's international showdown. The United States, a juggernaut on the stage, faces stiff competition from a country that is slowly turning into a powerhouse itself as the landscape of the sport shifts across the nation (Brodie Merrill penned a detailed column on the evolution).
For fans of the sport and casuals especially looking for something to do now that their country just bowed out of another major international tournament, Thursday's affair is ripe with intrigue and national pride on both sides.
Don't miss out.