It's called the fastest game on two feet, and anyone who has ever watched high-level lacrosse live can understand why. You'll likely get some arguments from hardcore American football fans, but the speed and ferocity of lacrosse are undeniable.
On Thursday, July 10, the pinnacle event in international lacrosse will begin in Commerce City, Colorado, at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
The FIL (Federation of International Lacrosse) World Lacrosse Championship is the sport's equivalent to soccer's World Cup. It matches 38 national teams in an epic battle for the gold medal.
The tournament lasts until July 19 when a champion is crowned.
Club players, college hopefuls and the best from Major League Lacrosse will fill the teams to ensure the highest-level of play is in store for fans. Here's a look at the schedule for the first four days of the event, per World Lacrosse 2014.
Here is a look at the full bracket.
Thursday, July 10
- 7 p.m. – Opening Ceremony, Stadium
- 9 p.m. – United States vs. Canada, Stadium
Friday, July 11
- 10 a.m. – Netherlands vs. China, Field 10
- 10:30 a.m. – Latvia vs. Switzerland, Field 8
- 11 a.m. – Italy vs. Norway, Field 4
- 11 a.m. – Bermuda vs. France, Field 6
- 11 a.m. – Wales vs. Russia, Field 3
- 11:30 a.m. – Hong Kong vs. Austria, Field 1
- 1 p.m. – Scotland vs. Thailand, Field 10
- 1:30 p.m. – Finland vs. Colombia, Field 2
- 1:30 p.m. – Slovakia vs. Korea, Field 5
- 1:30 p.m. – Sweden vs. Israel, Field 8
- 2 p.m. – Czech Republic vs. Turkey, Field 6
- 2:30 p.m. – Poland vs. Costa Rica, Field 1
- 2:30 p.m. – New Zealand vs. Argentina, Field 3
- 2:30 p.m. – Spain vs. Mexico, Field 4
- 4 p.m. – Germany vs. Belgium, Field 10
- 4:30 p.m. – Ireland vs. Uganda, Field 8
- 7 p.m. – Australia vs. Japan, Stadium
- 10 p.m. – England vs. Iroquois, Stadium
Saturday, July 12
- 10 a.m. – Korea vs. Sweden, Field 10
- 10:30 a.m. – Austria vs. Germany, Field 8
- 11 a.m. – Uganda vs. Bermuda, Field 2
- 11 a.m. – Colombia vs. Spain, Field 6
- 12:30 p.m. – Norway vs. Netherlands, Field 3
- 1 p.m. – France vs. Ireland, Field 10
- 1:30 p.m. – Belgium vs. Hong Kong, Field 5
- 2 p.m. – Russia vs. New Zealand, Field 1
- 3 p.m. – Switzerland vs. Scotland, Field 4
- 1:30 p.m. – Argentina vs. Wales, Field 8
- 4 p.m. – Japan vs. Iroquois, Field 10
- 4:30 p.m. – Thailand vs. Latvia, Field 2
- 4:30 p.m. – Finland vs. Mexico, Field 8
- 5:30 p.m. – China vs. Italy, Field 3
- 5:30 p.m. – Turkey vs. Poland, Field 6
- 7 p.m. – Australia vs. United States, Field 10
- 7:30 p.m. – Costa Rica vs. Czech Republic, Field 8
- 10 p.m. – Canada vs. England, Field 10
- 10:30 p.m. – Israel vs. Slovakia, Field 8
Sunday, July 13
- 10 a.m. – Wales vs. New Zealand, Field 10
- 10:30 a.m. – Czech Republic vs. Poland, Field 8
- 11:30 a.m. – Scotland vs. Latvia, Field 4
- 11:30 a.m. – Thailand vs. Switzerland, Field 1
- 12 p.m. – Russia vs. Argentina, Field 3
- 12 p.m. – Colombia vs. Mexico, Field 5
- 1 p.m. – Belgium vs. Austria, Field 6
- 1 p.m. – Germany vs. Hong Kong, Field 10
- 1:30 p.m. – Israel vs. Korea, Field 2
- 1:30 p.m. – Finland vs. Spain, Field 8
- 4 p.m. – Uganda vs. France, Field 4
- 4 p.m. – Sweden vs. Slovakia, Field 6
- 4 p.m. – England vs. Australia, Field 10
- 4:30 p.m. – Netherlands vs. Italy, Field 8
- 6 p.m. – China vs. Norway, Field 1 1
- 6 p.m. – Turkey vs. Costa Rica, Field 3
- 7 p.m. – United States vs. Japan, Field 10
- 7:30 p.m. – Ireland vs. Bermuda, Field 8
- 10 p.m. – Iroquois vs. Canada, Field 10
The remainder of the schedule contains play beyond the initial group action. The dates and times can be seen here.
Before the teams advance to knockout stages of the tournaments, they will battle in their respective divisions. The highest-rated squads have been placed in the Blue Division. The top four teams in the Blue Division will advance to the quarterfinal round.
The top two teams will receive a bye into the semifinals.
The other eight divisions have a more indirect route. The top team in each will engage in pool play to become eligible to advance to the quarterfinal round of the championship bracket.
Here's a breakdown of all the divisions, per NLL.com.
- United States
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Republic of Korea
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
The Rivalry That Drives the Competition
Every international competition is about the amalgamation of global talent and proving to be the best in the world. However, there's always a rivalry that almost transcends the event itself. For lacrosse, that rivalry is between the United States and Canada.
Without question, the two North American countries have dominated the event and feature the most MLL talent.
A total of 46 current MLL players will be playing in the tournament. Half of them make up the 23-man Team USA roster. Another 14 play for Team Canada. That dynamic clearly explains why both squads are in the Blue Division and figure to be the cream of the crop in Colorado.
Either the U.S. or Canada has won all of the 11 previous versions of the tournament, and it would be a shock if one of the squads doesn't take home the gold this year.
The United States has nine of those 11 gold medals and is the team to beat this year, but a former three-time member of the U.S. squad believes the Canadians offer a real threat in 2014.
In a shortened posting from Lacrosse Magazine on World Lacrosse 2014, Ryan Boyle said:
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.
The experience is golden for Canada. It shows the growth of the sport in the country and should lead to some confidence for players north of the border.
Current Canadian star and member of the National Lacrosse League's Philadelphia Wings and the MLL's Boston Cannons, Brodie Merrill, talked about the sport's ascension in his country.
In his own shortened piece originally found in Lacrosse Magazine, Merrill wrote:
"It was an eye-opening experience, playing against young U.S. stars like Conor Gill and Kevin Cassese. It exposed us to the level we needed to reach to compete at the next level of field lacrosse.
It has been amazing to witness first hand how field lacrosse has changed in Canada."
As Merrill leads his squad against American stars like Ned Crotty and Brendan Mundorf, we'll see which team reigns supreme.