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The Road to San Diego: 11 men’s teams earn world championship qualification

The 2022 European Lacrosse Men’s Qualifier was held April 11-16 in Wrocław, Poland, where 11 spots were on the line for the 2023 World Lacrosse Men’s Championship. It was the first of four continental qualifying events that will take place this year ahead of the championship, set for San Diego, California, USA, next summer.

The 2022 European Lacrosse Men’s Qualifier was held April 11-16 in Wroc?aw, Poland, where 11 spots were on the line for the 2023 World Lacrosse Men’s Championship. It was the first of four continental qualifying events that will take place this year ahead of the championship, set for San Diego, California, USA, next summer.

Newly Qualified Teams

The following 11 teams earned qualification for the 2023 Men’s Championship via results of the European Men’s Qualifier:

New Championship Format & Qualification System

World Lacrosse senior field world championships are now capped at 30 teams. For the 2023 Men’s Championship, the top-10 eligible teams from the 2018 event automatically qualified, with the remaining 20 slots determined via relevant Continental Federation events as noted below:

[table id=354 /]

For the next quadrennial cycle beginning in 2025, the senior-level world championships will be split into two divisions. The top-tier men’s championship will involve 16 teams, while the Division II Men’s Championship will have 24, therefore bringing the total number of men’s teams competing at a world championship to 40. The only automatic participants will be the host countries, with all other teams competing for qualification at CF events 12-24 months in advance of the world championships.

For 2023, participating nations will be divided into six pools of five teams for preliminary round play, with the top five teams in Pool A (formerly known as the Blue Division) and the remainder divided among Pools B-F using snake seeding. Starting in the next quad, all groups will be determined via snake seeding.

Teams participating in senior-level world championships must also now represent Full Member countries of WL. While a Provisional Member may be invited to participate in a CF event, it would be ineligible to compete in the subsequent world championship unless it became a Full Member by a pre-determined deadline in advance of the event.

How the European Qualifier Worked

The 22 teams were split into four groups of relatively equal weight. Two of the groups (A and B) had six teams and two had five (C and D). All countries played each of the teams within their groups, with C and D nations also playing one crossover game. Crossover matchups were determined based on standings within each group, and counted toward the final rankings, ensuring all teams ultimately played five games.

With 11 world championship spots on the line, the top-two finishers in each of the four groups and the top three third-place finishers earned qualification, based on win-loss records (goal differential as tiebreaker).

Full stats can be found here.

The Undefeated

The Czech Republic (Group C), Switzerland (Group B) and Wales (Group A) emerged from the European qualifier unscathed, each with a perfect 5-0 record. The highest-ranked Welsh (14) were particularly impressive, winning all games by a minimum of four goals, tying for the tournament lead with 59 goals and holding opponents to a tournament-best 15 goals. Meanwhile, both the Swiss and Czechs required overtime to secure one of their victories, while second-seeded Switzerland won two additional games by a one-goal margin.

The Czech Republic was a third seed entering the qualifier after finishing 26th at the 2018 Men’s Championship, upsetting top-seeded Norway (7-4) and second-seeded Greece (14-5) in Group C en route to its unblemished record and outscoring opponents by a 37-goal margin in five games. The Czechs’ toughest competition came from fourth-seeded host Poland, which came from being down 4-1 to tie the game and force overtime, in which the Czechs needed more than 11 extra minutes to score the game-winner.

Finland Comeback

Entering the qualifier with the second highest world ranking (15), Finland dropped its first two games and was at risk of missing next year’s world championship after participating in – and earning top-15 rankings – in each of the last four editions. The first loss was a major upset by France in overtime (9-8), and was followed by a 10-4 defeat at the hands of the Dutch.

The Finns then used their own overtime victory over Sweden (8-7) to shift momentum, following it with a convincing 8-2 win over Belgium to come back within qualification range. In Finland’s fifth and final game – a crossover match against Norway, the third-ranked team in Group C – the team came from behind to garner a 4-1 win and secure its place in San Diego.

Additional Surprises

Both Denmark (Group A) and Poland (Group C) punched above their weights in the qualifier, as the only teams seeded fourth or below to earn spots in San Diego.

Host Poland jumped out to a 2-0 record with wins over world No. 19 Greece and No. 17 Norway, before falling in overtime to the undefeated Czech Republic. The Poles’ only other loss came to Sweden in a crossover game after being one of the first two teams (along with Wales) to lock in qualification two days before the tournament came to a close.

Meanwhile, fifth-seeded Denmark beat third and fourth seeds Slovakia and Spain within Group A, ultimately finishing third with a 3-2 record to secure its fourth world championship appearance.

Group C saw the biggest shakeup of the qualifier, with the first and second seeds (Norway and Greece) failing to qualify in favor of third-seeded Czech Republic and fourth-seeded Poland. Norway ended up as the lone third-place team not to qualify, holding a 2-3 record to miss out on making its fourth straight world championship appearance.

Close Calls

In addition to Norway, France and Spain very nearly missed qualification.

France was the only team with three victories not to qualify, with Group D seeing a three-way tie for second place between Sweden, Finland and France, which all had 3-2 records. In the case of a tie between two or more teams, the win-loss record of games among the tied teams is the first tiebreaker, followed by goal differential in the games among the tied teams, then goals conceded in those games. In this case, the French would have qualified if they had scored one more goal against either Finland or Sweden.

In Group A, Spain’s 2-3 record was good for fourth place. However, if either of the team’s two overtime losses (to Denmark and Latvia) had gone the other direction, Spain would have qualified.

Missing Out

Norway and Greece are the most notable omissions among the qualifiers, after having finished 17th and 19th in 2018. Additional top-30 European teams not returning to the world championship include Slovakia (23), Hungary (28) and Belgium (30).

Spain (31), France (33), Croatia (43) and Turkey (44) also missed out on returning to the world championship, while Portugal and Slovenia were looking to compete for the first time.

Stat Leaders

James Barlow, a 2016 University of Vermont graduate who suited up for France in Poland, led the qualifier with 17 goals and 23 points, with one of his more notable goals being the overtime game-winner in France’s 9-8 upset over Finland.

Three-time world championship participant Kevin Powers of Sweden finished second with 22 points and tied for the lead with 17 goals, while Welsh captain and two-time world championship participant Alex Williams was third overall with 18 points (10 goals, 8 assists).

Current Field & Additional Qualifiers

A total of 21 of 30 teams have qualified for the 2023 World Lacrosse Men’s Championship, as follows (ranking from 2018 Men’s Championship in parenthesis):

[table id=355 /]

Note: The eighth and 10th place teams from the 2018 Men’s Championship (Puerto Rico and Philippines) were not Full Members of World Lacrosse at the time (Provisional Members were previously allowed to compete at senior-level world championship events), and were therefore not granted automatic qualification. They are now both Full Members and will be competing in their respective continental qualifiers this year.

What’s Next

The Pan-American Lacrosse Association will hold its qualifier July 17-22 in Medellín, Colombia, with four spots on the line to complement the three automatic qualifiers from the region. The Asia Pacific Lacrosse Union will then host a qualifier October 3-8 in Seogwipo, South Korea, also with four spots on the line to join the APLU’s two automatic qualifiers. The qualification process for Africa – where there are two Full Member nations – will be announced at a future date

The previous world championship rankings determined the number of allocation spots awarded to each Continental Federation.

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