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The U.S. men’s and women’s volleyball teams are closing in on berths to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 — and the women could earn theirs as soon as this weekend and on home soil.
Coming off their second consecutive FIVB Volleyball Nations League championship earlier this month, the U.S. women host Kazakhstan (Friday), Bulgaria (Saturday) and Argentina (Sunday) in a round-robin Olympic qualifying tournament in Bossier City, Louisiana, with the winner earning a berth to the Tokyo Games.
The U.S. men, meanwhile, head to the Netherlands next week for a qualifier of their own.
Both Olympic qualifying tournaments feature the top 24 ranked teams, with each field divided up into six pools. The six pool winners each earn a spot in Tokyo, while the final five Olympic berths will be determined via the continental championships in early January.
Japan, as host, has already qualified men’s and women’s teams.
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The U.S. men's team celebrates at the FIVB Nations League on July 14, 2019 in Chicago.
Following their VNL win, the U.S. women come into Bossier City ranked third in the world, and they’ll be heavy favorites to come out of Louisiana with an Olympic berth. The next best team in the group is Argentina, ranked 11th, while Bulgaria is 16th and Kazakhstan is 23rd. All three opponents are seeking their second-ever Olympic berths.
Meanwhile, the 14-person U.S. roster features 13 players who took part in the VNL Finals, including opposite Annie Drews, who earned MVP honors, and outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, who took that honor the previous year. Only Kim Hill did not take part in this year’s VNL, though she still has plenty of experience as one of three Olympians on the roster, including Jordan Larson and Kelsey Robinson.
With a bronze medal at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 that followed silver medals in 2008 and 2012, the U.S. is the only team to have won medals in each of the last three Olympics. Despite their overall success, however, the U.S. women have never won Olympic gold.
The U.S. men are coming off a strong VNL performance of their own. After starting out with just one win in their first five games in preliminary play, Team USA went 8-2 the rest of the way and then made a run to the silver medal while competing in the final round at home in Chicago.
Now ranked No. 2 in the world, the U.S. will face No. 12 Belgium, No. 15 the Netherlands and No. 24 South Korea in a tournament that runs Aug. 9-11.
Though a roster has yet to be named, though veteran Matt Anderson, a two-time Olympian, is coming off MVP honors at the VNL Finals. Teammates Micah Christenson (Best Setter), Erik Shoji (Best Libero) and Max Holt (Best Middle Blocker) also earned VNL honors.
The U.S. men are coming off bronze medals at the Rio Games and 2018 world championships.
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.