There is no greater athletic honor than playing a sport for one’s country.
Lacrosse in the Olympics may be a reality in a decade, but for now dozens of countries compete every four years in the annual world championships for field and indoor lacrosse. On September 19th, the 2019 WILC (World Indoor Lacrosse Championship) will begin in Langley, British Colombia as 20 countries will battle to be crowned the best in the world.
There is one obvious question that has to be asked heading into the tournament: can anyone beat Canada?
Since the first ever World Indoor Lacrosse Championship in 2003, no team has ever beaten Canada in any game. Canada has won all four WILC championships which isn’t surprising since it is their national sport and more Canadians play box lacrosse than anywhere else in the world. Many Canadians grow up playing hockey in the winter and box lacrosse in the summer. Every four years Canada assembles a dream team of players, but could 2019 be the year someone topples these box lacrosse giants?
The Iroquois Nationals came close when they lost in overtime to the Canadians in 2007 and this year could be their best chance yet to disrupt their dominance.
The crowd favorite always seems to be the Iroquois and for good reason. Lacrosse is in their blood. The Iroquois have been playing lacrosse for centuries and it would be incredible to see the Iroquois team raise the trophy. In an article I wrote a few months ago called “Welcome to the Rez” I talked about how there is a sense that playing lacrosse is as natural for native players as walking or running. It is a part of who they are. They play the game the way it is supposed to be played.
All four Thompson brothers, Randy Staats, Cody Jamieson, Brendan Bomberry, Tehoka Nanticoke, and other native players you may not have heard of but are some of the best players in the world will have a great chance of winning this year and will put on a show while doing it.
The World Field Lacrosse Championship gets a lot more press and hype around it with its longer history and more teams, but the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship is arguably more exciting and much harder to win. This will be an especially important tournament with an increase to 20 participating countries from the 13 that competed in the 2015 WILC. Mexico, Sweden, Serbia, Costa Rica, Netherlands, Slovakia, and Hong Kong will play in the WILC for the first time.
Every WILC the tables are turned on the United States team who are so dominant at the field world championships. The U.S. has always lagged behind as maybe half of its team usually has a lot of box lacrosse experience. However, this year all the players on the team except for 2 have experience playing in the NLL, have been to an NLL training camp, or grew up playing box lacrosse. US Lacrosse has invested much more into making this the best team the USA has ever assembled for the World Championships. Don’t be surprised to see the U.S. pull of an upset.
Powell Lacrosse’s very own Casey Powell suited up for the U.S. squad in 2015.
Other than the usual suspects of Canada, the Iroquois, and the U.S., England, the Czech Republic, and Israel will be the other big contenders at the WILC.
England and Israel’s rosters are bolstered by Canadian and American players added in amongst a handful of homegrown talent, but the Czech Republic is probably the closest country to having a pool of very good homegrown box lacrosse players. Thanks to the Ales Hrebesky Lacrosse Tournament in Prague every year as well as established clubs like LCC Radotin, Czech players grow up playing more box lacrosse than field. It is amazing to see such strong lacrosse roots in Europe.
I’m looking forward to improved countries having their best tournaments ever and the camaraderie that all the teams show no matter the result as so many lacrosse players come together to celebrate the sport. Most importantly the game will continue to grow as players from the new countries competing watch the best players in person and bring what they learn back to teach in their countries.
My patriotic side will be rooting for the U.S. to finally make it to the championship especially with several of my friends and former teammates on the team. If Canada wins again I will not be surprised with the insane level of talent on their team, but there is a part of me that really wants to see the Iroquois raise the trophy. It would mean so much for their people and the sport.
These games are a must watch for lacrosse fans and luckily Lax Sports Network will be streaming all 72 games.
The Canada vs Iroquois game will be a must see as well as the U.S.’s games against both of them. I have no doubt that Sportscenter Top 10 will feature a handful of plays from this tournament. The championship will be played on September 28th.
Let the games begin.