FIBA will bring teams back to bubble formats next month for the final round of qualifying games for the 2022 AmeriCup.
The 16 teams are split into four groups for the qualifying; two groups will be going to Cali, Colombia, the other two — including the group that USA Basketball is part of — will be going to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Each team is slated to play its final two qualifying games sometime between Feb. 18 and Feb. 22. Final schedules have not been released. The bubble formats were also used in November, including one the U.S. played host to in Indianapolis, in an effort to keep teams safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. and Brazil have already qualified for AmeriCup, the 12-team tournament that serves as the championship of the teams in the FIBA Americas zone which covers nations from North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean.
There are 14 other nations still competing for the 10 remaining AmeriCup spots. Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Mexico will enter next month's window of games on the brink of clinching berths. That would essentially leave eight teams — Canada, Cuba, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay — for what would be four remaining spots.
Canada was fined about $180,000 by FIBA this week for not participating — citing health concerns during the pandemic — in its two scheduled qualifying games in November, plus docked one point in the standings. Canada Basketball pushed back Wednesday, saying it stood by its decision.
“In the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic that has claimed the lives of over 2 million people around the world, and infected 96 million more, never did we think we'd be forced to make a decision between the well-being of players and staff, and sanctioning for an inability to safely participate in an international competition," Canada Basketball said in a statement.
The Canadians are appealing the FIBA sanctions, and saying they will continue to look into whether they can safely participate in the February games. Canada is in Group C, vying with the Dominican Republic, Cuba and the Virgin Islands; three of those four teams will move on to AmeriCup, but Canada is currently last in the group with three points in two games. The other three teams have played either three or four games.
The U.S. has won the AmeriCup gold medal seven times in nine previous attempts. AmeriCup is scheduled to be played in September 2022 at a to-be-determined site.