In order to qualify for the 2019 China World Cup, USA Basketball will use its D-League players, the organization announced on Tuesday. The decision to do so stemmed from the new World Cup qualification schedule, which has laid out games to be played during the NBA’s regular season.
“This will be an excellent opportunity for NBA D-League players to showcase their talent and experience meaningful and important international competition while representing the United States,” USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley said in a news release.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will not coach the qualifying games either. A head coach will be named at a later date. Team USA can also tap on Americans currently playing overseas, as long as those leagues are taking a break during the qualifying games.
Team USA has won gold medals in each of the last five major international basketball competitions. But these schedule changes impact not only the United States, but competing countries worldwide. FIBA has opted to mimic FIFA’s international soccer model, scheduling six two-game qualifying windows from this November to Feb. 2019, according to Marc Stein.
Even without their top talent, Team USA will likely remain a favorite to emerge out of the qualifying rounds.