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2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup: Team USA to host Belgium, Russia and Puerto Rico in Washington for qualifiers

Emma Meesseman gets her homecoming in D.C.!

Chicago Sky v Washington Mystics
Emma Meesseman and Team Belgium are playing in D.C. for the World Cup Qualifiers.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

On Tuesday, FIBA held the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournament’s group draw in Geneva, Switzerland. The USA Basketball women’s national team will play in Group D with Belgium, Russia and Puerto Rico.

The remaining groups are below.

  • Group A: Australia, Korea, Serbia, Brazil (in Belgrade, Serbia)
  • Group B: France, China, Nigeria, Mali (in Belgrade, Serbia)
  • Group C: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Japan, Canada, Belarus (in Osaka, Japan)

The qualifying tournament will be from Feb. 10-13, 2022. According to FIBA, the games in Washington will be held at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Congress Heights. This has not been confirmed by USA Basketball, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, or Events DC. In fact, a release by USA Basketball on Tuesday afternoon regarding the qualifiers stated that the venue was unknown. We have reached out to USA Basketball, who reiterated that no official venue has been named or finalized in Washington though the qualifiers will be there. They hope to make an announcement before the end of December.

Though there are conflicting reports on where the qualifiers will be, ESA always appeared to be one of the most likely venues given that it is the home of the Washington Mystics and that the Capital City Go-Go won’t be playing games there that weekend.

Below is the schedule of the qualifier games that will be played in Washington. Game times are to be determined:

  • Feb. 10: Belgium vs. Russia, USA vs. Puerto Rico
  • Feb. 11: Russia vs. Puerto Rico, USA vs. Belgium
  • Feb. 13: USA vs. Russia, Belgium vs. Puerto Rico

The biggest news, from a D.C. standpoint, is that some arena in Washington will host both the USA and Belgium for a game. Emma Meesseman is the top player for the Belgian Cats, and she will have a homecoming weekend at the arena where she led the Washington Mystics to the 2019 WNBA championship. For Mystics fans, it will be an opportunity for them to get one more chance (and possibly their last) to see her play stateside because of the realities of the international game.

And for Emma herself, it will be cool to see her walk through the halls of the MedStar Health Performance Center while she fistbumps Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura and Tommy Sheppard as they say “Hi” to her in the hallway. The Wizards have two home games during the qualifiers, and I’d imagine that she’ll go to them if possible!

But I digress.

The timing of the qualifiers will also give us an opportunity to see how well Belgian fans travel, now that the world learns to live with the coronavirus and that they do not need a travel visa to enter the United States. My feeling is that there will be a good number of Belgians heading stateside for this trip.

Since early November, the United States lifted its non-essential travel ban on non-Americans who were in the European Union’s Schengen Area (Belgium is in it), provided those travelers test negative for the coronavirus and are at least two weeks removed from the first/second dose of the Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Covisheild, Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines to be considered “fully vaccinated.”

The roster for the USA Basketball women’s national team has not been determined yet, though Mystics center Tina Charles and guard Ariel Atkins were members of the Olympic team. Dawn Staley, the head coach for Team USA during the Olympics, leaned toward stepping down after the Games but could still return. If she doesn’t, it seems likely that USA assistant (and Minnesota Lynx head coach) Cheryl Reeve may be the successor.