USA Basketball will play all its games at next year’s World Cup in Manila and won’t need to travel during the tournament, assuming the American men qualify for the event.
FIBA, the sport’s governing body, made the announcement Monday. The World Cup is being contested in the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan next summer and each of those host nations got to pick one team that it wanted to have for the group stages.
The Philippines chose the United States — not a surprise given the NBA’s enormous popularity there. Japan picked Slovenia, a team led by Luka Doncic. And Indonesia selected Canada, coached by Toronto’s Nick Nurse and should feature a slew of top NBA players such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jamal Murray.
“I’d like to think it works to our advantage,” said Grant Hill, USA Basketball men’s national team managing director. “I think we have to be mindful and respectful that these players are on airplanes all throughout the regular season and kind of move from city to city, bed to bed, hotel to hotel. It’s a grind. ... I think once we get there, and we get settled, we can kind of plant some roots for a couple of weeks. I think it is something that can work to our advantage.”
Slovenia will play group-stage games in Okinawa, and Canada will play its opening games in Jakarta. Okinawa is about 900 miles (1,450 kilometers) from Manila, while Jakarta is roughly 1,700 miles (2,735 kilometers) away.
The Okinawa and Jakarta groups will each send two teams to Manila for the final phase of the tournament. The other four nations that qualify for the final phase already will have been there; the U.S., the Philippines and 14 other nations in the 32-team field will be in Manila for the group stage.
At the most recent men’s World Cup at China in 2019, some teams said travel between multiple cities was draining. The setup for next year, FIBA said, addresses those concerns.
“We will have a reduction in the transfers,” FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis said Monday. “You’ll remember that teams changed (locations) two or three times in China. There will be one transfer and this is only for those who will be playing in Japan or Indonesia ... and after the transfer we’ll also have an extra rest day before the final phase starts.”
Slovenia and Canada are among 17 teams that already have qualified for the tournament. The rest of the field will be decided in February, and the U.S. is on the brink of earning a spot — but hasn’t gotten it done yet.
The Americans are 8-2 in their 12-game slate of qualifying games, in which they are using players from G League and international clubs. The World Cup roster will have NBA players.
A win at Uruguay on Feb. 23 or at Brazil on Feb. 26 would be enough to clinch a berth for the U.S. The only way the Americans wouldn’t qualify for the World Cup — the primary way teams will earn a spot into the 2024 Paris Olympics — is by losing both games in February, have at least four outcomes of other games not go their way and then lose a series of tiebreakers.
The World Cup draw is April 29 in Manila. The tournament starts Aug. 25.
Zagklis, at a virtual news conference, said Monday that FIBA had some talks with international officials in the early days of the saga of Brittney Griner — the U.S. women’s star, WNBA great and Olympic gold medalist who just returned to the U.S. after more than nine months in a Russian prison.
He said he hopes to see Griner play again one day.
“I can simply say, very happy that she’s back home and that she’s well,” Zagklis said. “I think right now there are other priorities for her, but hopefully she can find the motivation and the will and the desire to come back on the court. She’s definitely one of the best players, one of the more decorated players, female players in the world right now. And on a personal level, I’ve met her a couple of times. She’s a very, very nice person.”
The U.S. women played this summer without Griner and won the Women’s World Cup.