USA Football introduced the Junior Flag International Cup in June 2022. The event debuted at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with 15U and 17U Boys’ and Girls’ U.S. Flag National Teams facing squads fielded from Canada, Japan and Panama. It was an excellent opportunity to unite young athletes from different cultures while fostering the international competitive nature of one of the world’s fastest growing sports.
This year’s Junior Flag International Cup will be held in a warmer climate at the United States Performance Center (USPC) and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte from July 5-8. The event coincides with the 2023 IFAF Americas Continental Flag Football Championship, featuring the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Flag National Teams.
“The inaugural Junior Flag International Cup showed the immense potential flag football has to unite athletes from across the world, not just from across our country,” said USA Football Head of Player Personnel Charles Torwudzo. “We’re using the lessons we learned from hosting last year’s event to improve the 2023 Junior Flag International Cup. The young athletes that participate this July will walk away with incredible memories. We hope they all continue striving to improve and reach the highest level of competition as flag football becomes a regular on the international stage.”
“Facing teams from other countries helped me tremendously in how I play today,” said 2022 17U U.S. Girls’ Flag National Team co-captain and current Women’s Flag National Team member Ashlea Klam. “Each team taught me something different and that information is very valuable to me. It also showed me how big flag football is and how it continues to grow and give opportunities to girls across the world.”
“One of my favorite parts of the Junior Flag International Cup was after the tournament when I got asked to swap gear with the other teams,” Klam said. “I got Panama’s sweatpants, Canada’s game shorts, team Japan’s jersey and so much more. Everyone was so nice to each other, and you could tell that we all equally shared the love of flag football. The tournament brought me friends from around the world that I still talk to today.”
USA Football recently released the rosters for the 2023 15U and 17U Boys’ and Girls’ U.S. Flag National Teams. Assembled through scouting, recruiting outreach and evaluation at the Junior National Team Trials, the rosters boast 65 of the top middle school and high school athletes from 16 states.
The junior national team coaches are just as impressive as their athletes. The eight coaches (one head coach and assistant per team) have more than 120 combined years of coaching and playing experience split between flag and tackle football at the youth, high school, collegiate and professional levels.
The Junior Flag International Cup will be played under International Federation of American Football (IFAF) rules, embracing the international governing body’s five-on-five style. This promotes a consistent style of play in international competition and prepares young athletes for IFAF events.
Flag football’s most recent positive strides include participating at The World Games 2022, becoming the NFL Pro Bowl’s new format and receiving status as a sanctioned high school varsity sport for girls in seven states and the Southern Section of California.