COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo
. - The USA Men's National Volleyball Team is ready to take on the world. The United States has been selected to participate in the 2006 World League by the FIVB Volleyball World League Council at a recent meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, USA Volleyball announced Thursday.
CSTV: College Sports Television has partnered with USA Volleyball as the official and exclusive broadcaster of the World League in the United States and will broadcast several matches throughout the season as part of its Olympic Pursuit programming.
Team USA - absent from the international event for each of the last four years - was selected from a group of 19 candidates vying for the esteemed slots, which will expand from 12 to 16 teams next year. Announced prize money for the world's most prestigious annual event will total more than $20 million for the first-time ever.
"It's hard to overvalue the impact - for our men's team and for our sport - of getting back into the World League," said Doug Beal, USA Volleyball CEO. "The level of competition that we get to face each year is invaluable for the team and for their preparation for major world events, particularly leading up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
"The alternative for us during the years we have not participated has been very costly, from a competitive point of view, because there simply are not top teams to compete against during that two-month block of time that the World League is scheduled," he added. "So you miss out on the really important development matches and you have to replace them with matches against teams that are usually not ranked in the top 10 or 15 in the world. From the team perspective, it's a terrific boost for the level of schedule that they will have, certainly for 2006 and hopefully in the years beyond.
"Equally important from my perspective is the value and the opportunities for the association and for our efforts at growing the game, popularizing and promoting the sport and particularly, exposure for our men's national team," stated Beal.
CSTV Networks will feature at least seven World League matches next year on College Sports Television.
"If we are going to be serious about achieving excellence, not only with our teams but with the direction that we are growing the sport and how we are trying to position volleyball in the sports/entertainment marketplace, we simply have to be on television," said Beal. "As delighted as I am that the FIVB has welcomed us back into the World League, I am equally delighted - maybe more delighted - with the relationship we have established with CSTV, and especially their commitment to partnering with us to help grow our game!"
Brian Bedol, CEO of CSTV, said, "CSTV provides the most comprehensive college sports programming available, and we are just as dedicated to showcasing America's future Olympic champions and amateur athletes. We're delighted to provide national television exposure to satisfy existing men's volleyball fans and introduce this terrific sport to new viewers as well. We expect to expand our coverage with USA Men's Volleyball to include international World League matches as well as men's and women's national team matches."
For the third consecutive year, CSTV features weekly volleyball matches, in conjunction with the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), featuring the top teams from the top conferences around the country, such as Nebraska, Penn State, Hawaii and Florida.
Sites, dates and times for CSTV broadcasts of the USA Men's Volleyball Team are being finalized and will be announced at a later date.
The 16 World League teams are divided into four pools of four teams each. Each team will play the other three teams in its pool four times in the preliminary phase - twice at home and twice away - over the course of six weekends from July 14-Aug. 20 (two matches each weekend).
The final round, scheduled to take place in Moscow from Aug. 22-28, will feature the top team in each pool, the host team (Russia) and one invited team from the remainder of the field. Should Russia win its pool, the No. 2 team in its pool will also advance to the final round.
"We were extremely excited when we heard the news," said Team USA head coach Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand). "The boys were real happy. It's one of the key ingredients that we have identified as part of our future success. We want to be able to train at sea level, we want to keep a high number of players training with us and we want to be able to play the best competition possible.
"World League allows us to do that, so it's a huge, huge thing for us," McCutcheon added. "It's wonderful. You can't say enough good things about the work that Doug and [USA Volleyball Secretary General] Kerry [Klostermann] did towards making this happen. It's really a fantastic thing for us."
The Americans will be a member of Pool A along with Japan, Poland and 2000 Olympic gold medalist Serbia and Montenegro, which has earned medals at each of the last four World Leagues (silver in 2005, bronze in 2004, silver in 2003 and bronze in 2002).
"We like the pool a lot; it's a strong pool," said McCutcheon. "We think we can win some matches but we know it's going to be very, very difficult. Serbia and Montenegro is a perennial powerhouse in the international volleyball arena. They're a good team...they have very good players and we're excited to have them in our pool. We want to play the best teams that we can.
"Poland, which placed fourth at this year's World League, is also a strong team," he added. They have a strong professional league in Poland and their national team is very good. Japan is one of the strongest teams in Asia and they always have been. They have a very good team as well. I am happy with the pool that we have."
The United States begins pool play at home with two matches against Poland on the weekend of July 14-16. The team then travels to Japan for two matches on the weekend of July 21-23.
Team USA will host Japan and Serbia and Montenegro in weeks three (July 28-30) and four (Aug. 4-6), respectively. The USA Men will then be away for the final two weekends of preliminary play against Poland (Aug. 11-13) and Serbia and Montenegro (Aug. 18-20).
Defending Olympic gold medalist Brazil, winners of the last three World Leagues (and five overall) headlines Pool B along with Argentina, Finland and Portugal.
Pool C features eight-time champion Italy, 2002 champion Russia, China and France.
Cuba, a team the United States defeated to win the NORCECA Zone Championships on Sept. 15, earned the bronze medal at the 2005 World League and will compete in Pool D along with Bulgaria, Egypt and Korea.
Egypt's participation makes the 2006 edition of World League the first major worldwide sporting event to be played on five continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America).
"This is really a wonderful opportunity for us and we need to take full advantage of it," explained Beal. "We need to produce these events in an attractive way, sell enough tickets and get enough people at the matches so the FIVB will want to keep us as a regular participant. We want to be a regular participant in World League."
2006 WORLD LEAGUE
Pool A-Japan, Poland, Serbia and Montenegro, USA
Pool B-Argentina, Brazil, Finland, Portugal
Pool C-China, France, Italy, Russia
Pool D-Bulgaria, Cuba, Egypt, Korea
2006 World League Teams (In Order of World Ranking)
3. Serbia and Montenegro
2006 World League Teams (By Zone)
Serbia and Montenegro
SOUTH AMERICA (2)
All-Time World League Champions (USA Finish)
1990 - Italy (USA, 7th)
1991 - Italy (USA, 6th)
1992 - Italy (USA, 3rd)
1993 - Brazil (USA, 9th)
1994 - Italy (USA, 12th)
1995 - Italy (USA, 10th)
1996 - Netherlands (USA, DNP)
1997 - Italy (USA, DNP)
1998 - Cuba (USA, DNP)
1999 - Italy (USA, DNP)
2000 - Italy (USA, 6th)
2001 - Brazil (USA, 9th)
2002 - Russia (USA, DNP)
2003 - Brazil (USA, DNP)
2004 - Brazil (USA, DNP)
2005 - Brazil (USA, DNP)
DNP=Did Not Participate