Opportunities and constraints for wave energy conversion technologies and projects are evaluated by identifying and characterizing the dominant wave energy systems for United States (US) coastal waters using marginal and joint distributions of the wave energy in terms of the peak period, wave direction, and month. These distributions are computed using partitioned wave parameters generated from a 30 year WaveWatch III model hindcast, and regionally averaged to identify the dominant wave systems contributing to the total annual available energy ( AAE ) for eleven distinct US wave energy climate regions. These dominant wave systems are linked to the wind systems driving their generation and propagation. In addition, conditional resource parameters characterizing peak period spread, directional spread, and seasonal variability, which consider dependencies of the peak period, direction, and month, are introduced to augment characterization methods recommended by international standards. These conditional resource parameters reveal information that supports project planning, conceptual design, and operation and maintenance. The present study shows that wave energy resources for the United States are dominated by long-period North Pacific swells (Alaska, West Coast, Hawaii), short-period trade winds and nor’easter swells (East Coast, Puerto Rico), and wind seas (Gulf of Mexico). Seasonality, peak period spread, and directional spread of these dominant wave systems are characterized to assess regional opportunities and constraints for wave energy conversion technologies targeting the dominant wave systems.