COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – American beach volleyball athletes resume 2016 Olympic qualification with the FIVB Maceio Open in Brazil this week.

The next chance for beach athletes to qualify for the 2016 Olympics are through the FIVB Olympic Rankings, which closes on June 13. There are 12 men’s and 11 women’s events left in that time frame. U.S. athletes continue the qualification process, that began in April 2015, with a three-event swing through Brazil beginning this week.

At the head of the pack, the U.S. has three men’s and women’s teams vying to earn a spot in the top 17 of provisional Olympic Rankings and to be one of the top two American teams. Teams must have 12 events together as a pair to be considered, with the amount of tournaments picked up in 2015, U.S. duos won’t be crunched to meet that mark. The factor now that comes into play is picking when and where to travel to in order to stay healthy and pick up much needed points to move up in rankings. When a team takes an event off, the chess match of other teams and other countries jumping them is a valid concern. Once a team gets the required number of events needed, they keep their 12 best finishes and drop their lower points.

The American 2016 FIVB debut is at the Maceio Open (Feb. 23-28). A healthy and rested Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena will look to continue their streak on the medal stand from 2015, which saw them tally six medals toward Olympic qualification. They are seeded second at the Open, behind Brazil’s Evandro Goncalves and Pedro Solberg. Seeded sixth are Tri Bourne and John Hyden, who currently rank 11th in the world and second among the U.S. men. Theo Brunner/Sean Rosenthal round out the men that are automatically in the main draw, ranking 15th overall.

Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat, who are the U.S. women’s front-runners, are ranked seventh at the tournament, ahead of No. 14 Jennifer Kessy/Emily Day and No. 22 Lane Carico/Summer Ross.

The second stop in Brazil is the first Grand Slam of the 2016 calendar year. U.S. point leaders Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson join the list of six men’s teams, and contenders Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross debut among six women’s teams. The last time Walsh Jennings/Ross played was Sept. 5, 2015 at the FIVB Rio Open, where they tied for ninth.

Wrapping up the four weeks in Brazil is the March 15-20 Vitoria Open.

The 2016 U21 World Championships are slated for May 12-16 in Lucerne, Switzerland and now the U.S. has its pairs for the double-gender age group tournament. After this past weekend’s Trials, held at the Chula Vista, Calif., Olympic Training Center, the two American teams per gender have been decided.

The winner of the men’s bracket, Nathanael Vander Meer/Ben Vaught will enter the World Championships through the main draw, while runner-ups Cam Rodrigues/Kyle Skinner will play through qualification. Women’s winners Sarah Sponcil/Torrey Van Winden will also be a main draw entry, with Abril Bustamante/Zana Muno playing through qualification.

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