The global interest and visibility of flag football have reached new peaks and will continue trending upward as the most influential sport in American culture appears on larger international stages. USA Football is hopeful that its U.S. Flag National Teams will be a part of the celebration when the Summer Olympics come to Los Angeles in 2028.
“We are laying the foundation for the sport of flag football as it continues to grow in the United States and across the world,” said USA Football Managing Director of High Performance and National Teams, Eric Mayes. “Right now, the athletes that are populating our teams can be proud that they are on the precipice of history.”
As the sport’s governing body in the United States, USA Football is the only organization responsible for selecting the best athletes to represent their country in international competitions sanctioned by the International Federation of American Football (IFAF). IFAF serves as the international governing body for the sport of American football and boasts a family of 72 member nations. Only governing bodies recognized by IFAF are permitted to field National Teams.
Some of the elite athletes who took the international stage to represent the U.S. National Teams in 2023 include former Coastal Carolina Chanticleers wide receiver Bruce Mapp and former Houston Cougars basketball guard Jo Overstreet.
“It is an honor to have the opportunity to play alongside the best in the nation,” said Overstreet. “It means everything to me to represent my country on the international stage.”
“Making a National Team is the highest achievement you can have in our sport of flag football,” Mapp added.
Athletes interested in representing their country have plenty of opportunities to showcase their athleticism and skills in front of U.S. National Team coaches and scouts.
“There are a number of different entry points to make the U.S. National Team,” said USA Football CEO Scott Hallenbeck. “We’re talking about a rigorous and comprehensive scouting process. We’re looking for the best of the best. You can come through sanctioned tournaments, our U.S. National Team Digital Combine with our operating partner GMTM, or talent identification camps.”
The U.S. National Teams are overseen by veteran coaches with years of experience playing the sport and guiding programs on the international circuit.
“It is a privilege to represent my country in a sport that I love,” said former quarterback and current head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, Jorge Cascudo. “The U.S. has the best talent in the world, and it’s an honor to add the knowledge that I’ve acquired throughout the 27 years that I’ve been a part of this sport to their skill sets.”
“Being the head coach representing the U.S. Women’s National Team is a tremendous honor and responsibility,” said U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Saaid Mortazavi. “It means leading and guiding a talented group of athletes who represent their country on the international stage … The position carries the weight of the nation’s expectations and pride, but that is a challenge I'm thankful to have. It means a great deal to be a part of the team's success and to add to this country's football legacy.”
As the reigning world (2021) and continental (2023) champions, the U.S. National Teams represent the peak of competition in the flag football space. The game’s best athletes assemble with the unified goal of bringing home gold for their country against elite international opponents.
“We are a family! We know what our goal is, and we also play our roles to the best of our ability,” said Men’s National Team quarterback Darrell “Housh” Doucette. “We also understand this is bigger than us and go out there and Rep The Flag!”
USA Football employed a lengthy and comprehensive evaluation process to assemble the 2023 U.S. National Teams of 12 men and women that won gold medals in front of packed crowds at the IFAF Americas Continental Flag Football Championship this past July.
“My experience at the 2023 IFAF Americas was exhilarating,” said Overstreet. “The atmosphere was electric! It was such an amazing feeling to have so much media and fan support.”
“The excitement I felt when the referee was counting down the time [in the Championship Game] was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” explained women’s center Ashlea Klam. “Playing in front of a crowd that size and hearing all of the chants and songs still gives me chills today. I have rewatched that championship game more times than I can count, and I end up teary eyed every time.”
USA Football built the premier pathway to field U.S. National Teams for greater global competitions like the IFAF Americas Continental Championship. Flag football’s increasing popularity and accessibility has opened the door for many nations to field their own elite squads, making dreams a reality for many athletes.
“Playing for the U.S. National Team has been a dream of mine for a long time,” Klam said. “Being able to show that there is a true path between the youth and adult flag world is very important to me. I want to be able to inspire young female athletes and show them that if they work hard, playing for their country is a real possibility.”
“Playing for the National Team is a dream come true,” Doucette said. “Now I can say I’m one of the [sport’s] pioneers and a role model to the kids that are playing [flag] and want to be on the U.S. National Team.”
The dream hasn’t ended for flag football’s top athletes. Inclusion in the Olympics would mark flag football’s peak as a sport and increase its popularity among IFAF’s established family of nations and the countries just beginning to explore the game. American football is the only professional U.S. team sport never to have appeared in the Olympics, but hopefully that will change before the end of the decade.
For more information on the U.S. National Teams, visit the National Team page on usafootball.com.