Friday, April 8, 2016

A Non-American’s Guide to USQ Cup 9

By Andy Marmer

European, Australian, Canadian, and really any quidditch player from around the world has probably seen countless Indiegogo fundraisers and other social media posts about the upcoming US Quidditch Cup 9. Since not everyone knows all of the going-ons of US Quidditch (USQ), we figured we’d provide a little post to help non-Americans discern what exactly is happening in the US.

What is USQ Cup 9?
Previously known as Quidditch World Cup and then USQ World Cup 8, USQ Cup 9 is the national championship for US Quidditch and the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada.

Wait, UBC?
In the summer of 2014 when the old IQA split and USQ was founded, USQ accepted any team that wanted to become a USQ official team. UBC and its second team, British Columbia Quidditch Club, chose to register with USQ because of the relative density of teams in the US Northwest and Western Canada. This year, when USQ and Quidditch Canada determined that this practice would no longer be allowed going forward, UBC was grandfathered into USQ Cup 9. This is expected to be the final year that a team from outside the United States competes at USQ Cup.

UBC at last year’s USQ World Cup 8. | Photo Credit: Sofia de la Vega Photography

How Many Teams will be Competing?
Sixty teams will compete at USQ Cup 9 in Columbia, South Carolina.

Sixty Teams? That sounds like a lot.
You would think, but actually this year there are 20 fewer teams competing than at USQ World Cup 8. This is the smallest field since World Cup IV in 2010 (World Cup VI had 60 Division I teams and 17 Division II teams).

Division II? Is that like a lower bracket?
Funny you should ask. Whereas in other countries it’s typical for all of the teams to compete in pool play and then have both an upper bracket and a lower bracket, this has never taken off in the US, mostly for logistical reasons. At World Cup V and VI, there was a tournament completely separate from the national championship happening in the same location at the same time, deemed Division II. Division II was open to a limited number of teams, but any team could register. After a two-year hiatus, this concept was revived in a modified form by Texas State University at Consolation Cup in San Marcos, Texas. Consolation Cup is not a tournament run by USQ, but rather is an independently-hosted tournament featuring the top teams that failed to qualify for USQ Cup. Baylor University recently captured the tournament, which invited 30 teams.

So what is the format for USQ Cup?
After a one-year experimentation with Swiss Style at World Cup 8, USQ Cup is returning to a pool play format with 12 pools of five teams.

Wait, and you said South Carolina…?
That’s right, astute reader, for the fourth straight year the United States nationals are happening in the Southeast United States and for the third straight year in South Carolina. For context, this is roughly equivalent to EQC happening in...well, Gallipoli, but every year. Relatively convenient for a few teams, and a travel pain for everyone else who can’t figure out why the tournament keeps returning to the same corner of the country every year hint: it’s money. South Carolina makes very competitive bids that result in USQ getting more money for the tournament.

OK, so I think I get the logistics of the tournament. Tell me about the teams. Who’s going to win?
We’ll have plenty of analysis in the leadup to the tournament, but here’s the amazing thing about US Quidditch: in eight years of having a national tournament, there have only been two winners...ever. Basically, the following countries have roughly half the history as the United States but as many or more different champions: Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Norway, Canada, I mean, you get the idea…

The two winners, by the way, are Middlebury College, who hasn’t competed in a national championship tournament since 2011, and three-time defending champions, the University of Texas at Austin (UT).

Texas Quidditch after their three-peat championship win at USQ World Cup 8. | Photo Credit: Sofia de la Vega Photography

So Texas is going to win this then?
Texas won its past two championships entering as a top team, but not the favorite; those were Texas A&M and Lone Star Quidditch Club, a community team featuring many graduates of World Cup VI champions UT and World Cup VII favorites A&M. It would be a mistake to count out UT this year, but again, the team won’t be considered the pre-tournament favorite.

So if not Texas, then who?
Outside of UT, A&M, and World Cup VII runner-up Texas State University, the oddsmakers favor community teams. Favored teams include two Texas squads: Lone Star and Texas Cavalry, which is led by graduates from UT’s most recent championship team and Texas State’s World Cup VII team; a pair of Los Angeles teams: Los Angeles Gambits and the Lost Boys Quidditch Club; and Quidditch Club Boston (QCB). The five community teams in this bunch competed against each other in January at the Bat City Showcase, and the results were inconclusive, with the Lost Boys going 2-1 against the other top community teams, Cavalry 1-2, QCB 3-1, the Gambits 1-2, and Lone Star 1-2. In past years there has been a clear favorite entering the national championship although that team has only won once – and in this year the field is more wide open than ever.

OK, so tell me about those teams.
Even a brief summary of all sixty teams would make this article longer than necessary, but if you are interested in knowing more about the individual teams, you can check in later this month to read our previews for US Quidditch Cup 9.

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