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Team USA’s journey at the 2019 Pan-Am Games begins Friday, with the men kicking off against Guyana and the women against Trinidad & Tobago. The men close out pool play Saturday against Chile and Brazil, and the women draw Argentina and Colombia, with the knockout and medal rounds saved for Sunday.

The women have a clear path to the final with a good chance to win it all. They’ll be heavily favored in every pool match, and barring a massive upset of Canada in Pool B, they’ll be expected to win the semifinal against the runner-up from the other group.

General manager Emilie Bydwell steps into the coaching role for the tour. She’ll be helped out by the veteran presence on the squad, which includes 10 players from last World Series. Missing are a few who played 15s in the Super Series, but regulars like Naya Tapper, Abby Gustaitis, Jordan Matyas and Ilona Maher are all there.

The extra competition will give relative newcomers like Maher and rookie sensation Kriste Kirshe valuable added playing time. There are just nine tournaments separating the women from Tokyo, and as many live reps as possible is the prescription for these young impact players.

While the men would be favored to win this pool in a walk under normal circumstances, the team in Lima, Peru is green, as head coach Mike Friday has taken the opportunity to give his World Series regulars much-needed rest ahead of the 10-month run to Tokyo. Half of the team has circuit experience, while the other half is making its major international debut.

On the heels of leading recent Falcons tours, Friday assistant JD Stephenson has taken the whistle for Peru. He’s assisted by fellow Eagle lieutenant Anthony Rocques.

The competition is a little stiffer for the men, too, as Argentina and Canada have brought their World Series sides and the likes of Chile and Brazil present as legitimate banana skins. Should the men win out in Pool A, they’ll draw the loser of Argentina and Canada.

Nonetheless, landing on the podium should be a minimum expectation. The USA men have claimed bronze at each of the Pan-Am Games that included rugby, 2015 in Toronto and 2011 in Guadalajara, both times being beaten by Canada in the semifinals. There was no women’s competition in 2011, but the USA claimed silver in Mexico, falling to Canada in the final.

2019 PAN-AM MEN’S ROSTER
Ben Broselle
Maceo Brown
Travion Clark
Naima Fuala’au
Jake Lachina
Cody Melphy
D’Montae Noble
Joe Schroeder
Lorenzo Thomas
Marcus Tupuola
Anthony Welmers
Harley Wheeler

2019 PAN-AM MEN’S STAFF
Head Coach | JD Stephenson
Team Leader | David Fee
Assistant Coach | Anthony Roques
Head of Performance | Jon Hood
Performance Analyst | Brendan Keane
Athletic Trainer | Danielle Allen

2019 PAN-AM WOMEN’S ROSTER
Kayla Canett
Cheta Emba
Abby Gustaitis
Emily Henrich
Kristi Kirshe
Ilona Maher
Jordan Matyas
Alena Olsen
Ari Ramsey
Stephanie Rovetti
Naya Tapper
Lauren Thunen

2019 PAN-AM WOMEN’S STAFF
General Manager & Head Coach | Emilie Bydwell
Assistant Coach/Strength & Conditioning | Matt Long
Performance Analyst | Dave Gardner
Team Leader | Liz Strohecker 
Athletic Trainer | Nicole Titmas 
Team Physician | Dr. Alexandra Myers