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PREPARATIONS BEGIN FOR USA TEAM AHEAD OF XII FIP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

Jan 25, 2022 10:58 PM

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Team USPA's Jake Klentner.
Team USPA alumni Jake Klentner, played for Team USPA for a 14-goal tournament hosted by Port Mayaca Polo Club in Okeechobee, Florida.

The XII Federation of International Polo (FIP) World Championship is fast approaching with the international competition set to be hosted by the United States from October 26 through November 6, 2022. The high-octane competition consisting of eight nations at the 10- to 14-goal level will descend upon Palm Beach County Florida for the highest honor in international polo competition with each team mounted from a pool of 176 exceptional horses provided by J5 Equestrian.

Securing their place in the competition as the host nation, USA is joined by reigning champions Argentina, as well as Uruguay, who recently won the South American Zone B Qualifier in Punta del Este, Uruguay. Five teams are still to be decided in qualifiers held across the globe, but the United States has already begun their preparations on home soil, looking to claim their first FIP World Championship since 1989. Led by Coach Julio Arellano, former 9-goal professional and member of the 1989 winning team, the USPA has kickstarted the team selection process by the entering prospective players in 14-goal competition at Port Mayaca Polo Club (Okeechobee, Florida) throughout January and February.

Team USPA's Jesse Bray.
Jesse Bray will be stepping into the role of Assistant Coach for the XII FIP World Championship.

“Playing for USA in the FIP [World Championships] was one of my favorite experiences as a player and I am happy for these players to get that chance as well.”  – Jesse Bray

Throughout three games, Team USPA has had two victories and one defeat, with Coach Arellano utilizing three completely different line-ups of players up for consideration. “We are going to make our final selection by studying which combinations work best together,” highlighted Arellano. Team chemistry is an area of focus over the next few months. In their opening match, Hope Arellano*, Harrison Azzaro*, Jesse Bray* and Cody Ellis* produced a comeback with a determined second half performance to defeat Tonkawa by two.

Coach Julio Arellano is a former 9-goal professional and member of the 1989 FIP World Championship winning team.
Coach Julio Arellano is a former 9-goal professional and member of the 1989 FIP World Championship winning team.

Stepping into the role of Assistant Coach for the FIP World Championship, Bray is moving in and out of the saddle to further support team selection. “I have coached in the National Youth Tournament Series (NTYS) program and enjoy helping out with the USA team. It is fun to see the team come together and improve as they play with each other more.” Competing in the last two FIP World Championships in Australia and Chile, Bray brings the experience and knowledge of coaching younger players and competing for his country on the global stage. Bray continued by saying, “When I played for USA, it was with some of my best friends—something you do not often get to do in polo. It was an incredible experience.”

Along with competing for Team USPA, Bray will be serving as Assistant Coach for the XII FIP World Championship.
Competing in the last two FIP World Championships in Australia and Chile, Bray brings the experience and knowledge of coaching younger players and competing for his country on the global stage.

Featuring a line-up of four different players in their second game, Vaughn Miller Jr., Agustin Arellano, Nico Escobar* and Sebastian Aycinena* showcased another impressive comeback, overcoming a three-goal deficit in the second half to capture the victory. With their sights set on remaining undefeated, Harrison Azzaro, Jake Klentner*, Jesse Bray and Sebastian Aycinena fell 13-7 to G String, but will enter a shoot-out with a second chance to secure a place in the final.

Additional players will be joining the selection process in the upcoming months, highlighting the depth of players available for consideration on the USA team and the difficult job of the selection committee consisting of Julio Arellano, Jesse Bray, Jeff Hall, Mason Wroe and Stewart Armstrong, in narrowing down the players to represent the United States. “We are very thankful to all participants as well as all supporting staff and volunteers” relayed Arellano as a significant amount of work and cooperation ultimately will be done in selecting the final representatives for the United States.

Team USPA's Harrison Azzaro.
Harrison Azzaro has had the opportunity to showcase his skills to the selection committee on two occasions representing Team USPA in a 14-goal competition at Port Mayaca Polo Club.

Closely simulating the environment of the FIP World Championship, Team USPA are utilizing a mix of leased horses provided by Ola Polo, Matias Magrini and Dardo Iglesias along with some player-owned horses. The lengthy selection process will carry through the winter season with the selection committee keeping a close watch on Team USPA’s performance, narrowing down the right combination of players that will ultimately fight for the coveted international title on home soil.

*Hope Arellano, Harrison Azzaro, and Nico Escobar Active Team USPA Members. Cody Ellis and Jesse Bray are Graduating Team USPA Members. Sebastian Aycinena and Jake Klentner are Team USPA alumni. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.

All photos courtesy of ©David Lominska.

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