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FIBA Women’s AmeriCup: Team USA takes 4-0 record into this weekend’s final games

The United States is taking part in FIBA Women’s AmeriCup for the first time since 2007. The pre-qualifying tournament will feed into the beginning of USA Basketball’s new training program for the 2020 Olympics.

Diamond DeShields has led Team USA in scoring in two of their four AmeriCup games.
Courtesy of USA Basketball via Twitter

Not two months after a Team USA squad made up of college players captured silver at the Pan American Games in early August, the red, white and blue are at it again — this time at the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup.

The United States won all four of its Group B preliminary games this week against Paraguay, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil, placing it in Saturday’s semifinals against host Puerto Rico. As it stands, they’re on a finals collision course with Canada, who is also 4-0 and looking for its third straight AmeriCup title.

But wait — Canada is the two-time defending champion? They’re a strong opponent, but where have the United States been? And doesn’t this sound an awful lot like a regional qualifying tournament? Isn’t Team USA already in the 2020 Olympics?

Let’s walk through this tournament, why the United States is here and what they have to gain from their participation:

Why haven’t I heard of AmeriCup?

A couple reasons! First, this odd-years tournament was called FIBA Americas Championship for Women (or some iteration thereof) until 2017, when it got the AmeriCup name.

But if you don’t follow international basketball outside of Team USA, it might just be because the United States doesn’t typically participate in this tournament. The last time they did was in 2007, when they won it all.

In fact, Team USA’s tradition of “winning it all” is why they’re not usually on this stage. AmeriCup is a qualifying tournament for the Olympics and FIBA World Cup, and the last three cycles, the United States has qualified for the Olympics by virtue of winning the World Cup. But since they took third in the 2006 World Cup and did not secure an automatic berth to the Olympics, they needed AmeriCup to qualify, hence their 2007 participation.

But Team USA won the last World Cup. Why are they doing AmeriCup this time?

There’s a new process in place to qualify for the Olympics. Teams must participate in a pre-qualifying tournament (in this case, AmeriCup), a pre-Olympic qualification tournament in November and an Olympic qualification tournament in February.

Even though the United States already qualified, they’re taking part in this process because it’ll help them transition into the first phase of USA Basketball’s expanded training program for the women’s national team, which is centered around participation in the complete Olympic qualification process.

Plus, this early competition gives more players a chance to play for Team USA leading up to the selection of the Olympic team. The new USA Basketball training program features eight core players who have committed to participating in this winter’s exhibition games and tournaments, but for AmeriCup, only Sylvia Fowles is available. This means that 11 other players — nine from the WNBA, one overseas player and one in college — will get a chance to show their stuff.

Got it. So, who’s on the AmeriCup team?

Here’s the roster:

  • Jordin Canada (Seattle Storm)
  • Napheesa Collier (Minnesota Lynx)
  • Tina Charles (New York Liberty)
  • Diamond DeShields (Chicago Sky)
  • Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky)
  • Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx)
  • Olivia Nelson-Ododa (UConn Huskies)
  • Arike Ogunbowale (Dallas Wings)
  • Katie Lou Samuelson (Chicago Sky)
  • Khadijah Sessions (Kouvot, Finland)
  • Brittney Sykes (Atlanta Dream)
  • Elizabeth Williams (Atlanta Dream)

Canada, DeShields, Charles, Collier and Fowles have started all four games, but most players have only averaged around 20 minutes a game — it’s a fast-moving rotation. Fowles, DeShields and Ogunbowale are leading the team in scoring, but Dolson’s 90.4 percent field goal shooting has also impressed, and Canada’s nine assists against Argentina is tied for a tournament-high.

The United States has outscored its opponents by an average of 46.8 points per game, but expect that to change this weekend. Their 89-73 win over Brazil on Thursday has been their closest outing so far.

Here’s how to follow Team USA in the semifinals and Sunday’s placement game:

Game information

Semifinal 1: Canada (4-0) vs. Brazil (3-1)

When: Saturday, Sept. 28, at 5:30 p.m. ET

How to watch: ESPN+,

Semifinal 2: United States (4-0) vs. Puerto Rico (3-1)

When: Saturday, Sept. 28, at 8 p.m. ET

How to watch: ESPN+,

Third Place Game: Brazil (3-2) vs. Puerto Rico (3-2)

When: Sunday, Sept. 29, at 5:30 p.m. ET

How to watch: ESPN+,

Final: Canada (5-0) vs. United States (5-0)

When: Sunday, Sept. 29, at 8 p.m. ET

How to watch: ESPN+,