COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – USA is gearing up to host the first FIVB World Tour event of 2017 with the Swatch Major Series in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from Feb. 7-12.

Beach volleyball is gearing up on the professional tours with the FIVB World Tour starting in the USA. At the junior level, the USAV Junior Beach Tour continues its year-round season and the NCAA beach volleyball season is prepping its season start.

Eleven women’s teams and 12 men’s teams are registered for the FIVB Fort Lauderdale Major, which has a five-star ranking in the new FIVB categorization system. The U.S. is expecting three main draw entries and one qualifier entry, per gender, and is applying for one wild card entry in both the main draw and qualifier, for a maximum of six teams entered to play.

The current FIVB regulations for 2017 state that a host country may enter a maximum of six teams, including wild cards, for World Tour events that are three to five star tournaments. The country quota tournaments have been eliminated in 2017, therefore any team that does not have enough qualifying points to be in the top six teams will not compete. The regulations state, “a minimum of two Host Country (HC) teams are granted a place in the Main Draw… a maximum of four HC teams (excluding Wild Cards) can play in the Main Draw tournament and Qualification Tournament by entry points. A maximum of three HC teams may enter the Main Draw tournament by entry points, while the fourth ranked HC team may enter the qualification tournament. The fifth and sixth ranked HC team will be listed in the reserve team list to fill the qualification tournament,” in case of last minute withdrawals.

In USA’s case at the Fort Lauderdale Major, only three teams are returning from extensive 2016 partnerships: April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings, Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena and John Hyden/Tri Bourne. The top six ranked teams the U.S. is expecting to play at the Swatch Major, based on individual points, are:

Women’s TeamsPoint Total
April Ross (2,090)/Kerri Walsh Jennings (2,090)4,180
Brooke Sweat (1,250)/Summer Ross (975)2,225
Lauren Fendrick (1,170)/Sara Hughes (660)1,830
Lane Carico (870)/Irene Hester (532)1,402
Brittany Hochevar (600)/Emily Day (800)1,400
Kelly Claes (660)/Kelley Reeves (660)1,320
Men’s TeamsPoint Total
Phil Dalhausser (1,860)/Nick Lucena (1,860)3,720
John Hyden (1,205)/Tri Bourne (1,205)2,410
Jake Gibb (1,460)/Taylor Crabb (886)2,346
Theo Brunner (775)/Casey Patterson (1,460)2,235
Stafford Slick (734)/Billy Allen (847)1,581
Sean Rosenthal (380)/Trevor Crabb (886)1,266

The 2017 Swatch Major Series starts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. From Feb. 7-12 the world’s best of beach volleyball will be back on Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, with the twist that many teams are new partnerships. This is the first chance to see all the new pairs that have merged since the Tour closed with the World Tour Finals last September and the wider field of participants from the Long Beach Grand Slam last August. The 2017 schedule’s premiere event is the FIVB World Championships, being held in Austria, July 28-Aug. 6, giving teams a needed six months to prep and qualify.

The Fort Lauderdale Major is the first five-star FIVB tournament of the year, and will pack the house with the brightest teams in the world. Click here for more information.

Want a front seat to the action? The Swatch Major Series is registering volunteers for the Fort Lauderdale Major until Jan. 29, for the positions of: sport staff, VIP/Players, PR and social media, center court entertainment and will call/event information.

The FIVB World Tour added Rio de Janeiro to the calendar; the four-star event will be May 18-21. Also added in the last few weeks is a three-star stop in The Hague, June 15-18. The schedule is subject to changes, as seen already with the cancellation to Pacific Harbour due to heavy rain and flooding in Fiji.

The Junior Beach Tour has three events remaining in January, in California, Arizona and Texas. It then picks up four more tournaments in early February in sunny locations including Florida’s Siesta Key.

Registration is open for over 55 events, offering participants the opportunity to play within their region and to travel to different locations outside of their region and state.

The Beach Under 21 Team Trials held in December saw two teams emerge that boast extensive international experience. Mima Mirkovic and Kathryn Plummer won the women’s bracket and Clay Messenger and Adam Wienckowski the men’s. Mirkovic and Plummer earned bronze at the 2016 U19 World Championships and Messenger, with a former partner, tied for 17th at the same tournament.

Both U.S. teams will have the added benefit of past international beach experience and the expertise from their Olympic caliber coaches, Jose Loiola and Marcio Sicoli. Plummer, a Stanford freshman student-athlete, recently won an NCAA National Championship and was named the AVCA Freshman of the Year. All of which shows the strengthening of the beach volleyball pipeline from junior levels to the NCAA (now including beach), to international competition.

The winners of the Trials will serve as USA’s main draw entry at the FIVB U21 World Championships, June 13-18 in Nanjing, China.