So if you haven’t noticed – you should. Canton is hosting the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Junior World Championship the next two weeks and play starts Saturday at Fawcett Stadium. The field includes the United States, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, France, New Zealand and Canada. If I asked you who the No. 1 seed in the eight-team bracket was, you’d say the U.S. And you’d be wrong.
So if you haven’t noticed – you should. Canton is hosting the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Junior World Championship the next two weeks and play starts Saturday at Fawcett Stadium. The gold medal game is 1 p.m. on July 5.
The unique and inaugural event features the top national teams from eight countries. The field includes the United States, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, France, New Zealand and Canada.
If I asked you who the No. 1 seed in the eight-team bracket was, you’d say the U.S.
And you’d be wrong.
Who plays American football better than Americans you ask? (I know I did…)
The answer is Canada. At least that’s what their seed says.
Yep that’s right. Canada is the No. 1 seed.
The U.S. is No. 2.
“The seeding is determined by three main factors, and we feel the eight competing nations have been fairly allocated their ranking,” IFAF President Tommy Wiking said. “The IFAF Executive Committee considered each country’s performance in previous international junior competition, the size of a country’s domestic junior American football program and the number of years that program has been in place.
“We felt that Canada’s exceptional record in international junior competition during recent years warranted the top seed.”
Turns out there’s some merit to it.
Unbeknownst to me – and probably most of America – Canada plays a decent brand of American football. And on the world stage no country has shined brighter.
Since the NFL instituted the NFL Global Junior Championship, a 19-and-under tournament played annually in the Super Bowl host city from 1997 to 2007, the Canadians have dominated, winning the event four times, while also finishing as runners up four times.
After losing to the U.S. for a fourth time in 2004, Canada finally gained the upper hand in 2005, winning the NFL GJC in Jacksonville, with a thrilling 38-35 victory over a U.S. team led by future Wake Forest starting quarterback Riley Skinner. A year later Canada defended its title against the U.S. in Detroit and added a third straight championship over the Americans in Miami in 2007.
As is, Canada is riding a three-game win streak against its greatest rival. And that win streak has actually given the Canadians a 7-5 series lead over the U.S. on the international youth level.
Another nugget? The U.S. is the only country that has ever defeated Canada at the junior international level in American football.
Now here’s the catch…All those prior Canada vs. U.S. meetings featured the Canadian National Team against a regional U.S. squad.
In the teams last meeting, the U.S roster was made up solely of high school kids from the Southern Florida counties of Broward and Miami-Dade. Previous teams featured collections of players from New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
This year’s U.S. team, the one that takes the field Saturday at 8 p.m. against France, is the first U.S. National team composed of players nationwide.
All 50 state high school athletic associations and the District of Columbia were invited by USA Football to nominate at least 10 players to compose the talent pool from which Team USA’s coaching staff selected its roster.
The result? How about a gold medal.
This U.S. team features kids headed to Ohio State, Mississippi, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Virginia, Northwestern, South Carolina, Oregon State, Baylor, Texas A&M, N.C. State and others.
2009 IFAF Junior World Championship official seeding:
2. United States
8. New Zealand
2009 IFAF Junior World Championship – How They Qualified
Canada -Qualified automatic qualifier representing PAFAF (Pan-American Federation of American Football)
USA – automatic host qualifier representing PAFAF (Pan-American Federation of American Football)
Mexico – defeated Panama 26-0 on February 14, 2009, in front of a noisy 5,000-strong capacity crowd the Estadio Roberto Tapatio Mendez at Ciudad University in Mexico City to become the third and final representative of PAFAF (Pan-American Federation of American Football).
Japan – automatic qualifier representing AFAF (Asian Federation of American Football)
Germany – defeated Sweden 9-6 to win the European Junior Championship in Seville, Spain, in July 2008 to finish first among three EFAF (European Federation of American Football) qualifiers. Progressed to the final game by beating Austria (7-0), Denmark (20-7) and Finland (34-7) in the group stages.
Sweden – finished as runner up at the European Junior Championship in Seville, Spain, in July 2008 to finish second among three EFAF (European Federation of American Football) qualifiers. Narrowly lost 9-6 in the gold medal game to Germany having progressed from the group stages by beating France (20-13), Russia (27-0) and Spain (40-0).
France – finished in third place at the European Junior Championship in Seville, Spain, in July 2008 to complete the three EFAF (European Federation of American Football) qualifiers. Beat Denmark in the bronze medal game having lost to Sweden (2-13) in the group stages after beating Spain (45-25) and Russia (7-6).
New Zealand – triumphed 12-7 over Australia in their opponents’ capital city Canberra on January 24, 2009 to become the representative of OFAF (Oceania Federation of American Football).
2009 IFAF Junior World Championship – By The Numbers
8 – nations represented at the IFAF Junior World Championship
4 – continents represented in Fawcett Stadium
360 – football players aged 19 and under who will take part in the tournament
80 – football coaches from eight nations
32 – football officials calling IFAF Junior World Championship action
15 – countries represented by IFAF Junior World Championship game officials
12 – games played to determine IFAF’s first Junior World Champion
1,500 – team family members and guests expected to visit Canton
50 – television production and media personnel in attendance
$4,475,000 – IFAF Junior World Championship’s economic impact on Northeast Ohio *
8,460 miles – New Zealand to Canton
6,527 miles – Japan to Canton
4,147 miles – Germany to Canton
4,143 miles – Sweden to Canton
3,941 miles France to Canton
1,809 miles – Mexico to Canton
342 miles – Canada to Canton
* Source: Canton/Stark County Convention & Visitors Bureau