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Party for One

Not even the addition of Fedor Gorst to Team USA could slow Team Europe's methodical and convincing win at the 30th Mosconi Cup in London.

By Mike Panozzo
Photos By Taka Wu/Matchroom

On the opening day of the 30th anniversary Mosconi Cup, Jayson Shaw stuck to the regimen he'd started more than three weeks earlier. Up bright and early, the 33-year-old leader of the Team Europe squad that was attempting to win its fourth Cup in a row and 16th overall rolled into the fitness center at the posh Hilton London Wembley hotel. A stone's throw from the 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium (which hosts major sporting events and is even large enough to handle a Taylor Swift concert), the Hilton lobby is adorned with framed jerseys from soccer and American football teams that have stayed at the hotel before competitions.

“I'd like to see a Mosconi Cup jersey up on the wall,” Shaw mused.

Shaw split time between an elliptical machine and treadmill, getting in an hour of cardio before joining “Pool Life” YouTube content creator Lawrence Thomason and hopping into an Uber for the 25-minute ride to Westchester and the 94-year-old Italianate Porchester Spa. Shaw sweated through 20 minutes in a hot sauna before immersing himself into a 38-degree cold pool, forcing himself to stay submerged to his shoulders until his body was nearly numb. With his metabolism shocked into overdrive, Shaw returned to the Hilton late morning to meet his Team Europe comrades in arms ahead of their team van's trek to the Mosconi Cup venue, Alexandra Palace.

On the ride to “Ally Pally,” Shaw cracked jokes, jibed their opponent, conferred with captain Ralph Eckert and asked each of his teammates — Germany's Josh Filler, Spain's David Alcaide and Francisco Sanchez—Ruiz, and Austria's Albin Ouschan — how they felt.

This was Jayson Shaw at his most dangerous — laser focused, determined, loose. Oh, and motivated, thanks in large part to pool fans who had been posting snide remarks about his waistline in recent months.

“Whenever there was a photo of me from a tournament on social media,” Shaw said, “there'd be comments referencing my weight.”

The commentors, while callous, weren't entirely wrong. Through lack of motivation and a bout with back pain, Shaw had ballooned to 220 pounds, more than 30 pounds over his preferred playing weight.

“I had put on weight in the years following Covid,” he said. “And then I hurt my back. It's hard to lose weight when you can't work out.”

As is often the case for Shaw, all he needed to turn things around was a little needling.

“I went into mission mode,” he admitted. “I started going to the gym every day. I was eating well —chicken, fish, vegetables. No red meat or chocolate. I did three—day fasts. And I was practicing twice every day. I had the bit between my teeth.”

He also got addicted to ice baths.

“I put myself under it,” added Shaw, who saw his back pain disappear and his weight drop to 194. “I needed to do things that got me out of my comfort zone.”

Matchroom's announcement that Russian—born Fedor Gorst, who played for Team Europe in the 2020 Covid Edition of the Cup, would be joining Team USA provided another spark for Shaw, who went on his own social media campaign in attempts to get under the highly touted Gorst's skin.

The apparent need for motivation is nothing new for Shaw. After failing to win the U.S. Open 9—Ball Championship in 2016 (finishing third), Shaw vowed to win the coveted title the following year. He was an absolute terror throughout the year and won the U.S. Open that November in a runaway. Following Team USA's back—to—back Mosconi Cup triumphs in 2018 and 2019, Shaw vowed that Team USA “will never win again.”

“I don't know what it is,” he shrugged. “Sometimes I need a spark or to have a chip on my shoulder. I like to be in the middle of stuff. When I'm not, I feel like I'm missing out.”

Shaw did not miss out on a single opportunity to be in the middle of the action during Team Europe's dominating 11—3 win in London. He was 33 percent ringleader, 33 percent motivator, 33 percent match star — and 100 percent difference maker.

“Jayson is not just a super strong player,” said Filler, who earned his third MVP award with a pair of singles victories, a doubles win and the team match win. “He motivates you and pushes you. And then he organizes matches and gets food for the team.

Keeping with tradition, Euro and U.S. fans created a wild and celebratory atmosphere at the '23 Mosconi Cup.

“He's also one of the funniest guys I've ever met. All of that makes me comfortable. Having him on the team is definitely a weapon.”

“He's a great colleague because he puts the team before his personal interests,” added Spain's Alcaide, who enjoyed the honor of pocketing the Cup—clinching 9 ball in a 5—4 win over American Shane Wolford with his 8—year—old daughter Daniella in the front row. “He gives players confidence, and when great players give you confidence you know that even if you miss some balls, they trust you. That's so important.

“Whether he is playing great or not,” Alcaide said, “Europe will always need him on the team.”

Unfortunately for Team USA, not only was Shaw the straw that stirred the Team Europe cocktail off the table, but he was an absolute monster on the table. He won his only singles match, stomping the normally dependable Sky Woodward, 5—1, and won two of his three doubles matches, as well as helping earn Europe the team match point. In an event that saw a rash of dry breaks (particularly by Team USA), Shaw pocketed a ball on each of his nine break shots. His 2.5 points were a half point behind Filler in the MVP race, although his performance numbers at the table were higher than Filler's.


Of course, the one—sided nature of the highly anticipated 30th Mosconi Cup caught more than a few fans and pundits by surprise. A Team USA squad that had the lead after two days in 2022 and pushed their European counterparts in virtually every match was awarded an early Christmas present when Gorst was added to the squad. With Gorst, Shane Van Boening and Mosconi Cup king—slayer Skyler Woodward at the top of the order, Team USA was now trotting out a lineup that stacked up favorably against Team Europe's top three. Surely, the Americans, with Mosconi Cup veteran and two—time winner Tyler Styer and young rookie Shane Wolford rounding out the U.S. five, would be at least several games better than the seven wins it posted in 2022, when aging hero Earl Strickland was an unproductive addition to the lineup.

But those lofty expectations were dashed in short order on Day One, which is a shame because stately Alexandra Palace was prepped and polished for “a real cracker,” as the Brits like to say. Nearly 2,500 seats circled the Rasson arena table, including lavish leather couch VIP seating and service at the racking end of the arena. As has become customary at the Mosconi Cup, “fancy dress” added a festive element to the atmosphere. European fans in ugly holiday sweaters and Santa Clause outfits freckled the arena, along with a wild variety of costumes and ostentatious garb.

Most noticeable in London was the impressive U.S. following. While fewer than 100 Americans traditionally attended the Cup on foreign soil, U.S. fans appeared to make up around 20 percent of the audience in December. Their numbers were apparent by the myriad of outlandish red, white and blue gear they boldly sported in the sometimes—hostile London arena. Ever gracious as hosts, several groups of Brits took on Team USA's cause. A dozen friends from Yorkshire turned up in stars and stripes button down shirts, while another group of friends had t—shirts printed announcing their loyalty as the “Tyler Styer Euro Fan Club.”

And when the curtain went up and the teams sauntered into the arena backed by raucous cheering, blaring music and pyrotechnics, Ally Pally was in full throat and ready for pool's biggest grudge match.

In what developed as the only part of the U.S. game that was on point in London, Shane Van Boening won the lag for the opening break, facing off against rival Shaw. Van Boening quickly worked his way through the rack, although he seemed to struggle with position from shot to shot, smiling and shaking his head as he went along. Leaving himself a longer—than—anticipated shot on the 9, Van Boening rattled the game—winner, allowing Shaw and Europe to steal the opening rack.

And while it might seem impossible that the very first rack of a four—day event with a potential 189 racks at stake could for all practical purposes decide the final outcome, the first rack of the 2023 Mosconi Cup seemed to have that very effect.

While arguably one of the top five American players ever, Van Boening has never fared well in the Mosconi Cup environment, disenchanted with the short race, alternate break format and admittedly overwhelmed by the pressure on him from others to deliver. A poor start often leads to a disengaged, sulking star, which in turn drags on the entire team. After Van Boening botched another easy runout on his second trip to the table with the U.S. trailing, 3—2, the die was cast. The U.S. battled to a 4—4 tie, but a tied—up 3 ball in the case rack prevented Gorst, the primary target of European fans' jibing for his new allegiance to the U.S., from running the rack. A short tactical battle led to a missed bank on the 3 by Gorst, allowing Ouschan to complete the 5—4 win for Team Europe and a 1—0 overall lead.

After a forgettable performace in the opening matches, Van Boening withdrew.

“We had our opportunities and should have won that team match easily,” lamented Team USA captain Jeremy Jones later.

Compounding the problem was Van Boening heading directly back to the table to join Styer in a doubles match against Shaw and Ouschan. Styer missed a close—range shot in the second game and the Euros raced off to a 4—1 lead enroute to a 5—2 win.

From that point on, Van Boening distanced himself from the team, sitting on the far corner of the squad's seating area, only occasionally looking up from his phone to check in on action at the table. When Jones and the others went into the arena between racks to confer with whatever U.S. player was in action, Van Boening remained seated.

In the meantime, loose and comfortable, Team Europe went to work. Filler manhandled his Mosconi nemesis Woodward, putting on a run—out clinic during a 5—0 win.

Already in a 3—0 hole, Team USA closed the first day by sending out the questionable pairing of Gorst and Wolford. While Gorst had Mosconi Cup experience, his one outing with Team Europe was in 2020, when the Covid—19 pandemic prevented the event from being played in front of a live crowd. Gorst quickly learned the difference when he walked into the arena for his doubles match against former World Cup of Pool champions Alcaide and Sanchez—Ruiz and was serenaded by Euro fans riffing on the Bruce Springsteen classic, “Not Born in the U.S.A.!”

Despite the pressure and verbal abuse, Gorst and Wolford put in a solid performance, but it wasn't enough, with the Spaniards securing a 5—3 win and a clean sweep on Day One.

In the blink of an eye, the Mosconi Cup was quickly getting away from the Americans. The Europeans were positively giddy with confidence bordering on arrogance. They primped and preened between shots, racks and matches, linking arms and dancing in circles. Shaw launched what would become an almost intolerable dance over the four days, with his arms out like an airplane and bouncing up and down to the late '90s song “Freed from Desire,” a longtime celebration anthem in European soccer stadiums.

“I felt like I was practicing,” said Shaw, speaking more from confidence than dismissal of his opponents' abilities. “I was just so happy to be out there playing. I didn't have any weird feelings. I love the battle. A lot of people think I'm out there being a jerk and only thinking of myself, but that's not it. It's passion. It's great competition. And I do love to put on a show. This is the one event each year you can go out there and be crazy. Without that atmosphere, what's the point?”

Meanwhile, Jones found himself needing to pull his team back together and get them to believe the fortunes could turn in the other direction just as quickly as they had gone on Day One.

“I walked into our practice room and told them to crank up the music,” said Jones. “This was no time to hang heads.”

Jones was also aware that his top player and newly minted World 8—Ball Champion needed the proverbial come—to—Jesus moment.

“Shane was going to go to his room for the night without coming to eat with us,” Jones shared. “I walked down to his room and knocked on the door. I told him we needed to talk right then. I told him we needed him, whether we were down 4—0 or up 4—0. I told him that engaging with the team would make them better, and it would also make him better.”


While Jones' pairing of “rookies” Gorst and Wolford at the end of Day One was seen as risky, his Day Two lineup was the first move that was universally questioned. Down 4—0, Jones penciled in Gorst for the opening three matches of a five—match lineup sheet. Regardless of Gorst's standing as one of the top players in the world, it was still his first whiff of Mosconi Madness, where every ball is critical, and matches turn on a single shot. Meanwhile, Woodward, Team USA's most dependable player, would be on the sidelines until the fifth match of the day.

“Playing Fedor three times on Day Two was risky,” opined Shaw. “Skyler is their main guy, and you can't afford to get further behind.”

“Fedor might be in the toughest spot of any Mosconi Cup player ever today,” mused Matchroom commentator/pundit Karl Boyes.

Shaw's words proved prophetic. Opening play against Euro ace Filler, Gorst found out just how cruel the Mosconi Cup can be. Filler profited from a pair of fortuitous rolls after misses, and a pair of open tables after Gorst misses to race off to a 4—0 lead.

Between each rack, however, it was Van Boening who was the first American off the bench to offer support and wisdom to Gorst. When Gorst finally got an open—table break, he ran out, and followed that with another run—out after Filler broke dry. But it was too little, too late, as Filler closed out the match, 5—2.

Filler took full advantage of the circus atmosphere to put on a show.

Next up was Sanchez—Ruiz, who was visibly struggling with new equipment and confidence. As did Filler, the Spaniard benefitted from a few favorable bounces to battle Gorst to a 4—4 tie. But just when it looked like Gorst might secure his and Team USA's first point, a poor positional play late in the case rack left a 45—degree cut with just three balls remaining. Gorst undercut the 7, handing the game and match to Sanchez—Ruiz and allowing Team Europe to celebrate a 6—0 advantage.

“Obviously, I should have won that match,” Gorst said later. “I had to reach for the 6 ball. I was going to get my extension, but the clock was running. The shot was easy to reach, but I didn't get much on the cue ball and it came up short. The shot on the 7 is still a shot I should make. It wasn't that hard.”

Gorst and Van Boening finally got the U.S. on the board in the following doubles match, despite falling into a 4—3 hole against Filler and Sanchez—Ruiz. The beneficiaries of Filler's scratch on the break, Team USA knotted the contest at 4—4, then pounced on Filler's ineffective safety in the decider to secure America's first point, much to the relief of even the staunchest Team Europe supporters in Ally Pally.

But momentum is only as good as your next matchup, and Styer facing the stoic and Mosconi Cup hardened Ouschan was a tall order. The 33—year—old Austrian, whose final—event runner—up finish in Hanoi vaulted him from afterthought to wildcard selection, once again showed his class in the Mosconi Cup arena, playing an error—free match and scoring a 5—0 win. For his part, Styer didn't play poorly, but had few opportunities. And at 4—0, he summed up the 2023 Mosconi Cup for Team USA by pocketing four balls on the break, only to see a fifth ball — the cue ball — join the others at the bottom of a pocket.

With a 7—1 scoreline in the race to 11 tournament, Matchroom mercifully (and shrewdly), pulled the fifth match from the Day Two slate in an effort to assure a Day Four.


Again on Day Three, American skipper Jones front—loaded the lineup with one player, this time posting Woodward in all three matches scheduled for the penultimate session. The Kentuckian would team with Wolford in doubles, face Shaw in singles, and pair with Gorst in doubles.

In the end, saving Woodward for what is often the key day of competition was a matter of closing the barn door after the horses have already fled. Woodward missed in the second rack, while Shaw and Alcaide motored through layouts to build leads of 3—0 and 4—2. And when Wolford fired an errant shot in game seven, Europe moved ever closer to the Cup with a 5—2 match win and 8—1 overall score.

By now, the Team Europe celebrations were reaching comic proportions, with Matchroom's staff photographer flopping onto the ground in the circle of arm—linked teammates between racks of an ongoing match. The celebration had begun. It was just a matter of which Team Europe player would get the honor of pocketing the final ball.

Shaw took full advantage of his only opportunity to have the crowd to himself, facing Woodward in the subsequent singles contest. After Woodward left the 9 dangling in the corner pocket on a kick shot off the 3, Shaw cleaned up and ran from the break to burst to a 2—0 lead, dragging the adoring U.K. crowd along with him on every shot.

Well aware of his fate, Woodward smiled and nodded along as Shaw worked his magic. Trailing 4—0, Woodward finally found something to cheer about, watching the 9 ball find refuge in the corner pocket on the break. As he raised his arms to welcome the Bronx cheer from the entertained throng, Shaw walked over to high—five his opponent.

The end then came quickly, with Shaw winning the next rack to send the Europeans to a 9—2 lead.

“Listen,” said Shaw, “All the stuff with the fans is fun. I try not to do stuff in the opponent's face. It's not about that. I loved high—fiving Skyler after he made the 9 on the break. Me and Fedor were at each other, but I think in the end that was fun, too. They're all great players out here. I have respect for everyone as players.”

Rookie Wolford (center) had plenty of support in his big stage debut.

Standing in the way of Team Europe reaching the hill on Day Three were Woodward and Gorst, opposite Shaw and Sanchez—Ruiz. And for a change, the Americans got off to a fast and solid start, running to leads of 2—0 and 3—1, before a Gorst scratch on the break and a gift—wrapped 3—9 combination allowed the Euros to level the score.

But Woodward authored his second “golden break” to give the Yanks a 4—3 lead, and when Sanchez—Ruiz missed early in the following rack, Woodward and Gorst pounced. As the pair rolled through the remaining balls, Woodward signaled to the American faithful for “two beers” just ahead of sinking the case 9 ball. After sealing the 5—3 win, Woodward and Gorst chugged their beers live on Sky Sport, showing Euro viewers that Americans can celebrate wins with the best of them.


Perhaps the most ambitious announcement of the week came on Day Four, with Matchroom making sure fans knew that the 21st match in the 2023 Mosconi Cup would be “Captain's Pick” should the score line reach 10—10.

And while no one considered that a possibility, Team USA was determined to go down fighting.

The opening match of the final day pitted Van Boening against longtime Mosconi nemesis Filler in what should have been an edge—of—your—seat matchup. Van Boening had never defeated Filler in a Mosconi Cup single match, and his demeanor in London didn't bode well for that trend ending.

But Van Boening looked loose and comfortable, even though the pair battled even through the first four games. Van Boening ran out from the break to take a 3—2 lead, then reached the hill with a run—out after Filler broke dry. Again, Van Boening found success on the break and, as the cue ball rolled into pinpoint position for the match—winning 9, the 17—time Team USA player put his index finger to his lips, suggesting the partisan crowd sit quietly and watch as he closed out the match, 5—2.

“I was relaxed and ready,” Van Boening said. “After the beginning of the tournament I talked with a few people, including (commentator and longtime U.S. pro) Scott Frost, who motivated me. I had just beaten Josh in the 10—ball final in Norfolk, so I carried that with me as a positive.

“I wish I'd felt the same way on Day One,” Van Boening went on, anticipating the obvious next question. “You need to be relaxed at the Mosconi Cup and it's not easy. There's a lot of pressure. And I'm not really a leader. I just pull for everyone to play well. I'm here if they need me, but they can all play pool.”

“Shane needs to understand that engaging with the team makes you and the team better,” shrugged an obviously frustrated Jones. “These guys seeing Shane in there practicing today picked them up. And him seeing them watching him actually picked him up. You have no idea how much it helps everybody when they see him putting in the time and wanting to win.”

With a modicum of self—esteem preserved, Team USA send Woodward and Styer in to face Filler and Ouschan in the final doubles match. The Americans played with confidence in forging a 3—2 lead, but a Styer miss allowed the Euros to tie the match. From there, a classic break—and run by Filler and Ouschan, followed by a run—out following Woodward's dry break put Team Europe on the hill with a 5—3 win.

All that stood between Team Europe and a confetti—draped coronation was American rookie Wolford. Facing Alcaide, who was playing in front of a substantial and boisterous Spanish contingent (headlined by daughter Daniella), Wolford fought to avoid watching his opponent set off the final celebration in a match that featured several true oddities.

Gorst and Woodward toasted their big win.

First, Alcaide fired a 7 ball into a corner pocket, only to look on incredulously as the ball spun down into the pocket, clicked off a previously pocketed ball, and reappear on the table like it had been rejected as imperfect.

Then, at 3—3, Wolford broke the balls and watched quizzically as the 7 ball bounded off the table for a foul.

“I don't think I've ever seen an object ball fly off the table on a break shot,” said the astonished 24—year—old. “The cue ball, yes. But an object ball? How does that even happen?”

The bizarre notwithstanding, the Wolford—Alcaide match also reassured fans about what makes the rivalry and competitors not only compelling but endearing. Mid—match, Alcaide overran position on the 9 and missed a back cut to the side pocket. Facing a mid—range, slightly off—angle shot to the corner, Wolford missed. After Alcaide pocketed his second chance for the game win, the respected and well—liked Spaniard walked over to Wolford, slumped in his chair, and patted him on the knee.

“I looked over and I could see how much it hurt him,” Alcaide conceded. “I could see it on his face. I want to win, but I don't like to see that happen to my opponent. I think he's a good player and a good person. I said, 'It's okay. This is Mosconi Cup and there is a lot of pressure.'”

Wolford fought back from a 4—2 deficit to force a decider. He faced a negotiable layout after a successful break, but lost position on the 6. Several safeties ensued, before Wolford was left with a long thin cut on the 6 near the top corner pocket. He made the shot, but the cue ball found its way back down table and into the opposite corner, handing Alcaide an easy path to the Cup—clinching 9.

“I knew there was a chance at the scratch,” Wolford said. “I'm thinking just make the ball. You've got a four—inch section on a 9—foot table that you're trying to avoid, so I had to take that chance.”

After being swarmed by teammates and family, and posing for the battery of trophy shots, Alcaide reflected on the feeling of closing out pool's biggest event.

“It's always great when the final 9 ball goes down,” Alcaide said. “But you think about how much fun it would be to make that ball yourself. It's an amazing feeling. To do that this year here in London with my family here and all the Spanish fans, it's special. Especially to have Daniella here. She's my heart.”

Alcaide closes the deal.

Back in the European practice area, Filler signed posters and reveled in earning his third MVP award. He also tried to put his in—arena persona and respect for competitors in perspective.

“Playing the Mosconi Cup is a dream atmosphere,” he gushed. “I get to show my emotions. A lot of people take it wrong, but it's better to show emotions than just being serious all the time. This is just the way I am. My emotions help my game. I'm like this in the practice room. [Wife] Pia will tell you when I make a great shot I react the same way.

“As for my opponents, I have nothing against them. I respect the Team USA guys. Shane beat me and I was smiling. I had beaten him a lot in Mosconi but he played lights out and I think it was good for him.

“And I look forward to a long rivalry with Fedor,” he continued. “If you asked me who the top three players in the world are I would say, me, Fedor are in there for sure. Maybe we can be like Shane and Jayson.”

In another part of the room, first—time captain Eckert looked almost embarrassed by his good fortune. Clearly, he could have submitted his lineup, stayed in his room at the Hilton, ordered room service and watched the matches on Sky Sports. His job entering the event with a successful, veteran squad was more to not mess things up than to try to make them better.

“I didn't have to coach much,” he admitted. “But that was the plan ideally. I was able to get the same team back together. They already have a bond. It was obvious on the first day how well they work together. The main thing was just let them do their thing, which is not easy for a coach. I learned that a mixed team works very well. We literally had one guy on the floor meditating and another dancing around the table. They play each other so often and they respect each other, so it works. They enjoy working together as a team.

“Team USA tried hard,” Eckert added. “They tried to do everything right. I can't say they did anything the wrong way. I think that they were all trying too hard, maybe. Everyone trying to create something that wasn't there. They were more relaxed at the end. I could see that this was the team we expected to play. But they tensed up right after the very first mistake from Shane and tried even harder. And if you want something too hard, it doesn't work.”

Several feet away in the adjoining practice room, the Americans packed their gear and tried to wrap their heads around what went so wrong when expectations were so high.

“As a team I feel like we were a great team,” said Woodward. “We all get along and gel well. We spent a lot of time together. We didn't play our best and left a lot of tables out there that we didn't clear up when we had chances. It shows in the score. We just have to learn from it. Start preparing for next year right now.”

“This team is right up there,” echoed Styer. “It may not have looked like it, but we gelled really well. I just wish we'd had more chances to put points on the board early and put a little pressure on them.

“But Team Europe was a tsunami,” he continued. “And Josh is just sick. They broke great, pocketed great and punished us for every mistake. And the number of times they had a nice look at the lowest numbered ball was ridiculous. The team match got away from us. And winning that point would have been huge.”

While the result was surprising for the Team USA rookies, the value of the experience should pay dividends in future years.

“I enjoyed my time,” said Gorst. “I was really nervous in the beginning because it was something I've never experienced. It's so loud. Hanoi was loud, but here everyone is trying to shark you on purpose and trying to get under your skin. It can get the best of you. It's an intense experience. The shot clock is there, and the crowd is there. Sometimes you're down on the ball and the crowd is still screaming. Nothing the ref can do about that. It's something you don't get to experience the rest of the year. I wish every tournament was like this. It's such a different environment.

“And I loved the experience with this team,” he continued. “I always said I wanted to be with the Americans because I like them more. I don't care how good you play pool as much as I care about how you are as a person, and I think these guys are good people. I appreciate the work everyone put in before the event in Dallas. That helped me a lot. They went out of their way for me. It makes me really look forward to next year.”

After 30 years, Team Europe has seized control, with Shaw insisting that Team USA will never again rain on its parade.

“This is a good team,” insisted Van Boening. “It was a fun two weeks getting to know everyone better. It's something I won't forget. I'd do it again with these guys in a minute. We need to work on a few things, some crucial shots. But we'll be back stronger.”

While all five U.S. players may well be back, the fate of Jones was a topic most avoided discussing. After two years as vice captain under Johan Ruysink — the last two winning years for Team USA — Jones is now 0—4 as team captain.

“Most likely they're going to go another route,” Jones said. “That's the percentage play. We'll see what happens. I've always said I'm here to help the guys whether I'm directly involved or not, like I did in '17.”

In addressing lineup decisions and team morale, Jones, as is his nature, shot straight. “I'm not going to question the lineups,” Jones said. “Shane did not want to play Filler and didn't want to play singles until Day Three, so that affected some decisions. I didn't want him to be disgruntled. I felt like if he played well, even if we didn't win, he would stay engaged. That wasn't the case, and it affected the second match, which made the lineups look a little rough.

“In the end, we got punished on matches we didn't close,” he added matter—of—factly. “Missed opportunities. And we never got the break to where we trusted it. And maybe we changed a little too quick. One dry break in a race to five will make you feel like you need to change quickly.

“But I saw good things. I think Fedor improved every day. And Tyler gives 195 percent every time he's in the building. Shane Wolford got some valuable experience and didn't look like the moment was too big for him.”

With the Cup shifting back to the U.S. in 2024, hopes will once again run high for American pool fans, while Shaw and his fellow Euros will look to further tighten their stranglehold. Either way, lopsided score be damned, the Mosconi Cup will quickly start its next 12—month anticipation cycle.

“Forget the score,” Shaw insisted. “There is nothing else in pool like this event. Nowhere else like it. It's nonstop. You can't change this event. You can add another if you want, but you can't ever change this event. Ever.”