"You know, I really enjoyed the thrill of international competition of the Women's World Cup," you thought to yourself while counting sheep last night, "but I'd really like it if that could somehow translate to American football. It's too bad there's nothing out there that can quench this insatiable thirst I have."
Great news, friend, you're in luck. The IFAF Senior World Championships begin Thursday. Just what in the world are the IFAF World Championships? Let's explain.
What does IFAF stand for? International Federation of American Football. Yes, it's a little non-sensical, but what else would you call it?
Who's competing? Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, Mexico and South Korea in addition to the good old US of A.
Wait, how many countries sponsor American football? According to the IFAF: "IFAF is composed of 71 member nations on six continents (North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania), all of which possess national federations dedicated solely to American football."
Is this the only international competition out there? Of course not! There's an Under-19 World Championships, which Canada won in 2012, a Women's World Championships, which we are the two-time defending champions of, men's and women's world championships of flag football, and, from 2010 to 2013, an International Bowl pitting the US against the world.
When does the tournament begin? The tournament kicks off Thursday with a triple-header: Australia vs. South Korea at noon ET, France vs. Brazil at 3:30 and USA vs. Mexico at 7. Canada was a late scratch, giving Japan a bye to the second round.
What's the format? How long does this thing go? This isn't the World Cup of World Football, so with only seven teams there is no need for pool play. The IFAF World Championship is essentially an eight-team, single-elimination tournament where no one is actually eliminated and only seven teams compete.
The winners and losers Australia-South Korea and France-Brazil will meet in something of a quarterfinal game on Sunday. The winners of that winners' bracket game will meet the winner of the US-Mexico winner vs. Japan (okay, the US vs. Japan) next Wednesday. The winner of that game goes on to the Gold Medal game next Saturday. Simple enough.
Here's where it gets quirky. The loser of the US-Mexico game (okay, Mexico) gets a bye all the way to Wednesday, where they'll play the loser of the US-Japan game (okay, Japan). The winner of that game advances to the Gold Medal game. In short, Group A - Australia, South Korea, France and Brazil - has to win today, Sunday and Wednesday to advance to the title game on Saturday, July 18, while the US, Japan and Mexico can afford a loss and still play for the gold. In fact, there's a scenario out there where it's actually advantageous for the US to lose today, because a loss allows us to skip Sunday's games and advance directly to the semifinals on Wednesday.
If my math is correct, that's four games in 10 days. What? You think the Brazilian football federation has enough money to put an entire team in a hotel for a month?
Where are these games being played? The 2015 games were originally supposed to be a 12-team tournament in Stockholm, Sweden, but that ultimately fell through, and Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, was chosen as a replacement. The late move to the US and the costs associated with transatlantic travel caused Sweden, Germany, Austria and Morocco to drop out. Canada was also a late scratch, bowing out just two months and change before kickoff.
Alright, who's playing? Anyone I would recognize? The 45-man roster consists entirely of former college players, most hailing from Division I. As for the second question? The best I can give you is former Tennessee-Martin quarterback and nephew of greatness Dylan Favre.
Who's the head coach? Former Boise State and Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins.
Is this intramurals, brother? Apparently not.
Who are the assistant coaches? Former Washington State head coach Paul Wulff is the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. West Hills Community College head coach Robert Tuker is the defensive coordinator. The rest of the staff consists of former Colorado quarterback/Ohio State GA Cody Hawkins (quarterbacks), former Colorado running backs coach Darian Hagan (running backs), former SMU associate head coach Dan Morrison (wide receivers), West Hills CC defensive line coach Jerry Brady (defensive line), West Virginia state defensive line coach Isaiah Jackson (linebackers), and West Hills CC linebackers coach Matt White (defensive backs).
Is there any chance we lose this thing? The US is the No. 1 seed entering today's action, and the wonky schedule seems to be built allowing Mexico and Japan a mulligan for being on our side of the bracket.
Have we ever lost the world championships before? Since entering the field in 2003, the US has never lost a game, winning by an average score of 44-7. Although Japan did take us to double overtime in the 2011 gold medal game.
Who has the wackiest uniforms in this year's field? Viva la Mexico.
Okay, you've sold me. I am in desperate need of live football. How can I watch? ESPN has you covered. All games will be shown stateside on ESPN3. ESPN's international properties will carry the stream in Latin America, Brazil and Oceania. Everyone else will have to find the games on BigTimeSports.com. Sports Radio America will broadcast the championship game next Saturday.
Finally, is there anything more American than this? Because it sounds like we've invented a game, spread it to other nations, and then invited them to our shores so we can beat the stuffing out of them. God Bless America.