COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 12, 2016) – The U.S. Men’s National Team has made it back to the FIVB World League Final Round for a third straight year, but the stakes seem higher in this Olympic year.
Five of the six teams that have qualified for the Final Round this week in Krakow, Poland, have also qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games, which begin in Rio de Janeiro in less than a month. While only one of those five teams – the United States – has named its Olympic roster, there is no doubt that each team will be paying extra attention to the others.
The other two teams in the United States’ pool for the World League Final Round, Brazil and Italy, will also be in the U.S. Men’s pool in Rio.
U.S. Men’s Head Coach John Speraw said he is looking for his team to keep improving in Krakow.
“We hope to continue playing better volleyball,” he said. “We started out the summer a little slower than we had hoped. But I think the last couple of weeks we have improved and we hope to continue to improve as we look toward playing our best volleyball in Rio.”
The U.S. Men, ranked No. 5 in the world and the bronze medalists at the 2015 World League, will open play on Thursday against No. 4 Italy (11:20 a.m. ET, LIVE on nbcsports.com/live) and will face No. 1 Brazil on Friday (2:20 p.m. ET, LIVE on nbcsports.com/live). The U.S. played both teams in pool play, defeating Italy in Rome (25-22, 25-22, 25-23) and losing to Brazil in Rio (25-15, 25-13, 22-25, 25-22). It was the United States’ only loss in pool play.
In the other pool is No. 2 Poland, which will have a home-court advantage, No. 10 France, the defending World League champion, and No. 12 Serbia, which finished second at the 2015 World League.
Serbia did not qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games and will be playing its last match as a national team in Krakow, which could give it an emotional edge.
The World League winner will get $1 million, but the more important prize may be the knowledge gained by the five teams going to Rio.