USAFL Nationals divisional rankings announced

The United States Australian Football League has announced its divisional rankings for next month’s Nationals to be held at Surf Cup Sports Park, in San Diego, California.

Dubbed as the ‘Biggest Footy Tournament in the World’, this year’s USAFL Nationals, celebrating the league’s 20th Anniversary, will feature 53 teams across 7 divisions, including 2 women’s divisions.

The San Francisco Iron Maidens were last year’s USAFL Nationals Division One champions. Image: Sebastien Di Maulo Photographie

For the first time, the women’s Division One will feature eight standalone teams, up from five last year, with the teams divided into two pools of four.

Each women’s Division One team will play a minimum of three games – once against each team in their pool – with the first-placed finishers in each pool to meet in the Grand Final.

Defending champions, the San Francisco Iron Maidens, head into the tournament as the number one ranked team, but are expected to be missing one of their key players in Brette Brower, out with an injury sustained while playing for the USA Freedom during the International Cup in Melbourne.

The Iron Maidens, featuring Jessica Estrada, Jacque de Leuw, Margaret Leone, Sara Magallon, Nikole McKenzie and Carly Smolak, will face tough competition in Pool A with last year’s third-placed team the Minnesota Freeze, starring Catherine Hoha, Paige Kiecker, Catherine Georgiadis and Lizzy Even, also in their pool.

Two Canadian teams will also participate in the tournament with the Calgary Kookaburras in Pool B, while the Montreal Angels have gone up from Division Two to Pool A in Division One.

Some of the star Canadian footballers that are anticipated to play include Valerie Moreau, Caroline Leduc, Gabrielle Bureau, Margo Legault and Aimee Legault for Montreal, while Hilary Perry, Alanna Robertson and Tricia Rolfe will line up for Calgary.

Another team that will also make the jump up is the Seattle Grizzlies, who have gone from supplying the Portland Sockeyes a handful of players in division two last year, to fielding their own team in Division One’s Pool A next month.

With Valarie Barber Axthelm coming off a great tour of Australia with the USA Liberty, and the team having regular matches against the British Columbia based Vancouver women’s teams, the Grizzlies will prove to be no push over in their Division One debut.

In Pool B joining the Calgary Kangaroos will be six-time national champions, the Denver Lady Bulldogs. After losing their title to the Iron Maidens by just three points last year, the Lady Bulldogs will be looking to strike back with Jessica Gray and Lindsay Kastanek to help lead the charge.

Also in Pool B, the Sacramento Lady Suns will be looking to improve on their performance last year in Sarasota-Bradenton, when they won their first ever match at a Nationals tournament.

Sacramento has plenty of USA representative talent, with Liz Danielson, Rosemary Kloh, Laure Kwoka and Oahn Nguyen there to drive the Lady Suns onto another win, while eyes will also be on the airport to see if Katie Klatt will fly in from Melbourne, Australia to play.

The final team in Pool B of Division One is the New York Lady Magpies, who will be looking to rebound after a disappointing Nationals last year.

Despite introducing a number of new players, New York’s pride would have certainly been hurt, finishing last in their division and leaving Florida without a win.

Can veterans Drea Casillas, Siobhan McHale and Kim Hemenway lead their younger Lady Magpies teammates to victory, and make the team from the Big Apple a formidable opponent once again?

Pool A: San Francisco, Montreal, Minnesota, Seattle

Pool B: Denver, Calgary, Sacramento, New York

Women’s Division Two will be announced closer to the tournament starting, as the sides participating in that division are typically composite teams made up of players representing clubs who are unable to field a full team.

The early draft of the format for the division anticipates five composite teams playing in a round-robin tournament, with the highest ranked team crowned as champions.

Clubs that are expected to field players in division two include reigning champions the Portland Sockeyes, as well as the Arizona Hawks, Boston Demons, Columbus Jillaroos, Baltimore-Washington Eagles, Philadelphia Hawks, Des Moines Roosters, North Star Blue Ox, Wisconsin Wombats, Chicago Swans, Tampa Bay, the newly formed Los Angeles Dragons and a combined Texas team.

The USAFL Nationals is played in San Diego, California over two days, beginning at 8am on Saturday, October 21 with the women’s section of the tournament finishing with the Division One Grand Final at 3pm on Sunday, October 22.

On Friday, October 22, the USAFL will also be holding at women’s skills clinic between 2pm and 4pm at Surf Cup Sports Park, with the aim of helping establish a women’s team in San Diego.

A touring Aussie Sparks women’s footy team will also be at the Nationals, playing a match against an ‘all-comers’ team, with date, time and format TBC.

The United States Australian Football League Nationals will also be live streamed via YouTube, with commentary throughout the tournament from the likes of Brian Barrish (USAFL), Troy Thompson (World Footy News) and Peter Holden (Girls Play Footy).