MORAGA, Calif., July 25. IT'S water polo's biggest league meets American water polo's biggest youth tournament meets theBay Area this weekend (July 26-27), as the U.S. men's national team takes on Hungary in the final two games of the 2002 FINA World League.
The games will coincide with the National Junior Olympics, the nation's largest annual youth event, which runs from July 27-August 4, creating a water polo paradise in the unlikeliest of places, the Bay Area.
Earlier this month, the U.S. women's water polo team hosted a major international tournament, the Holiday Cup, at Stanford University, drawing 2,000 spectators or better each night of the four-day affair. That was the first water polo event of that magnitude to settle in the Bay Area. This weekend, with thousands of players and flocks of parents, coaches, fans and supporters converging on the bay for the Junior Olympics, those numbers could very well double or triple.
This weekend will serve as a bit of an appetite-whetter for the Bay Area, which is lobbying to host the 2012 Olympic Games.
Those who take up seats at the Soda Aquatic Complex in Moraga on Friday and Saturday (July 26 & 27) will get to take in the final two regular season games of the FINA World Water Polo League, which is in its inaugural season. The U.S. will be taking on reigning Olympic champ Hungary, which also happens to be in first place with an unblemished record of 10-0. Hungary remains the league's only undefeated team heading into the final round of play.
The U.S. sits in third place in Group B with a record of 3-7. With Russia in second place in the standings at 5-5, Team USA's playoff hopes lie in sweeping Hungary and Croatia sweeping Russia. The U.S. is 0-2 against Hungary and Croatia is 0-2 against the Russians. Only the top two teams from each bracket will advance to the Super Final in Patras, Greece, from August 1-4.