American football set to start at 2017 World Games in Wrocław, but not without hiccups

The 2017 World Games in Wrocław, Poland are set to start this week with a multitude of sports including American football which enters as an invitational sport.

The American football tournament, featuring teams from Poland, Germany, France and the United States, gets underway on the weekend, but not without travel snafus.

While the three European teams have all had training camps and have started practice, Team USA, due to last minute flight funding issues, will not be arriving until Friday July 21, just in time for one practice before taking on Germany Saturday July 22 at 1 pm in the first of two semifinals.

France and Poland will face each other in the other semifinal at 7 pm. The gold medal final and battle for bronze will be played Monday July 24.

As a result of the travel problems, Team USA will be made up of a hodge-podge of players including at least half of what may be a 35-45 man squad coming from players already in Europe. Rudy Wyland, head of the United States Federation of American Football (USAF), and head coach of the team, will not have much time for preparation and will not have the full squad he wanted. Many of the players originally scheduled to fly to Poland from the United States are being left home much to their disappointment and his.

Rudy Wyland:

“This has been a tough few days for the players and coaches, and I feel terrible for those players who suddenly are not making the trip, but we have managed to find a way to get through it as a team and organization. I look forward getting on the field and representing the United States in the World Games.”

Germany defeated Australia at the 2005 World Games held in Duisburg, Germany

Meanwhile, the German Football League has taken a week off to allow the best players to participate in the tournament for Team Germany. Both the French and Polish leagues finished their seasons a few weeks ago and are in full preparations. They have all of their best players at their disposal.

However, even though the United States has yet to confirm who will play on its team, they still have to be considered slight favorites given their international track record. The German national team has not played together since the 2014 European championships which they won in a thriller over Austria. 

While the German national team can’t be ranked ahead of the Americans just yet, given the circumstances they could surprise come Saturday.

Although Team France would have to be considered the favorites in the other semifinal game, the Polish national team has progressed in the past two years. Last year they surprised both Denmark and Sweden in international friendlies. Poland lost both contests but both games were close. France defeated Italy last year in an international exhibition game.

The last time American football was included as an invitational sport at the World Games was in 2005 when Duisburg, Germany played host and the home team won it all. Germany beat Sweden 20–6 in the final game while France took third place, beating Australia 14–0 in the consolation final. The United States was not represented at the event.

The last time the world got together to compete in American football was the 2015 IFAF World Championship.  The United States, through the USA Football governing body, used a team of former college players who maintained their amateur status to absolutely dominate the rest of the international field.

The tournament was originally scheduled to be held in Stockholm, Sweden, but issues with the local organizing committee forced its move to Canton, Ohio. That meant teams from Germany and Austria, who had proven themselves to be among Europe’s top contenders in the sport, backed out due to financial constraints caused by the late changes. The United States team, coached by former Boise StateColorado, and current UC Davis head football coach Dan Hawkins, ultimately went on to win its third consecutive IFAF World Championship, trouncing the team from Japan in the final game. Team France finished fourth, losing to Mexico in the bronze medal game.

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