A Guide to Volleyball Leagues and Tournaments

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On a global scale, volleyball may not be seen in the same light as certain other sports when it comes to popularity. However, its following is larger than many people give it credit for, with millions of fans and players the world over. It is particularity popular in the Netherlands, where it’s the most played indoor sport of all, with more than 125,000 associates. Here, we’re going to look at the world’s biggest volley-balls leagues and tournaments.

One aspect of volleyball that is different from the majority of team sports, is that it’s bigger on the international stage than it is domestically. In fact, the typical fan knows far more about international tournaments and matches than they do about domestic leagues. Here, we’re going to explore the world’s major volleyball events, which will only serve to help you when placing your bet on a match or tournament. We’ll be going over the European Championship, the World Championship, and Olympic volley-ball, in addition to the Club World Championship, the European Championship, and, of course, the Dutch Eredivisie.

Volleyball’s Rules and Variants

Before we look at the aforementioned competitions, let’s first establish the fact that there are multiple styles of volleyball. The two most common versions are indoor volleyball and beach volleyball.

One key difference between the two styles is how many players are involved. There are six players on each team in an indoor volleyball match, with just two players per team in a beach volleyball match. The 18m x 9m courts in the indoor game are also slightly larger than the 16m by 8m beach courts. The other key difference lies in the scoring, as indoor games are played over a best-of-five-sets format, with a team needing to accumulate 25 points to be awarded a set. In beach volleyball, that changes to a best-of-three format and 21 points to win a set. Of course, there are similarities, too. Both, for example, re-quire a team to win by two clear points, and if a final set is needed, it runs to 15 points. Being armed with these essential basics is key to putting together your betting strategy.

Olympic Volleyball

When it comes to the world’s biggest volleyball tournaments, the Olympics is the clear winner. While it’s held just once every four years, it attracts a huge audience from around the world; and not just diehard fans of the sport, either, but anyone who has an interest in sports. Indoor volleyball isn’t even the only game that’s represented at the Olympics. Beach volleyball is also an Olympic sport, and its audience is perhaps just as large as that of indoor volleyball; perhaps even larger.

volleyball olympics

Olympic Volleyball Format

There are Olympic events for both men and women in both variants. 12 teams participate in each of the indoor events, with 24 teams taking part in beach volleyball.

There are a number of ways that a team can qualify for an indoor volleyball event. The country hosting the Olympics is awarded automatic qualification, and the top six teams from the Intercontinental Qualifiers also take part. The remaining teams are comprised of one qualifier from each continent.

With regards to beach volleyball, qualification is less straightforward. The host nation again qualifies, along with the winning team from the previous World Championship. However, most teams (a total of 15), qualify through the FIVB Beach Volleyball Olympic Ranking system. The remaining qualifiers are made up of the winners from each continental cup, along with two countries competing in a FIVB Olym-pic Qualification Tournament.

The indoor volleyball events begin with a preliminary round consisting of two groups, with six teams in each group, and each team playing each of the other teams in their group once. Each group’s four high-est-ranking teams then advance to a knockout phase. The first group’s best team plays the fourth-best team from the second group, the first group’s second-best team plays the other group’s third-best team, and so on. In the group stage, each team is awarded three points for a win with a 3-0 or 3-1 scoreline, two points for a 3-2 scoreline, and one point for a 2-3 loss.

In the beach volleyball event, the preliminary round features six groups, with four teams in each. Each group’s best two teams are guaranteed a place in the round of 16, as are the two third-placed teams with the best records. The remaining two places are determined by the “lucky loser playoffs” where the other third-placed teams compete in a one-off match. The winner of each match advances to the knockout phase. Each team is awarded two points for a win, one point for a loss, and zero points for a forfeit.

Once the event reaches the knockout phase, each match winner advances to the nest stage, with the loser being forced to leave the competition. The final determines which team is awarded the Gold medal and which team takes home Silver. A third-place playoff takes place to see which of the two losing semi-finalists achieves Bronze.

The History of Olympic Volleyball

The indoor volleyball event has been an Olympic fixture since 1964, with competitions taking place for both men and women in all Games since. Beach volleyball, however, was a far more recent addition, having made its first Olympic appearance in 1996.
Up to 2016, the United States, the former Soviet Union, and Brazil have won more than any other country in men’s indoor volleyball, having won three Gold medals each. The Soviet Union also achieved great success in the women’s event, with four Gold medals. Cuba and China are not far behind, however, with three Gold medals each. Then there’s Brazil, a country that has achieved success more recently in the competition, winning Gold medals in 2008 and 2012, after achieving a top-four place in each of the four previous events. After losing to Brazil in the final of the 1992 Games, the Netherlands went one step further in 1996 by winning Gold.

The United States has been far and away the most successful entrant in beach volleyball, having won three Gold medals in both the men’s and women’s events, so you’ll always want to factor them in to your volleyball betting strategy. As in the indoor event, however, Brazil are making their presence known, having appeared in five of the last six finals in the men’s event and four of the last six finals in the women’s event.

FIVB Volleyball World Championship

Another event that takes place once every 4 years, the Volleyball World Championship is also a highly-popular global competition.

While there are separate events for men and women, they are scheduled at different times and at different locations. For example, the men’s event in the 2018 tournament took place on September 9 till September 30 in Bulgaria and Italy, with the women’s event held in Japan on September 29 till October 20.

FIVB Volleyball World Championship Structure

Since the 1988 championship, there have been 24 qualifiers decided in a number of ways, including places for the top-ranking teams from other global tournaments, past winners, and the host nation.

The competition takes place over four rounds. The first-round group stage assumes a round-robin for-mat, with four groups of six teams. The best four teams from each group advance to the second round.

Four additional groups of four teams each play each other in the second round, again in a round-robin format. This is where things take a more complicated turn, with the rankings worked out by adding the points from the first two rounds. The best team from each group advances to the third round, as do the two best second-ranked teams.

In the third round, six teams are divided into two groups, with each team scheduled to play against every other team in their group. The top two ranked teams from each group go on to play in the final round, beginning with the semi-finals. The winners of each group play the second-ranked team from the other group, with the winner of each of those matches playing in the final to decide the winner of the tournament. The two losing teams compete in a third-place playoff.

The History of FIVB Volleyball World Championship

The very first men’s World Volleyball Championship was held in 1949. It has been held every four years since 1952, the same year that saw the introduction of the women’s event.

Each decade of the men’s event has seen one team stand out above the rest. The Soviet Union, however, has been more successful than any other throughout the tournament’s history. Having won six of the first 10 events, with their domination only interrupted by Czechoslovakia (twice), East Germany, and Po-land. Italy won three titles in a row in the 1990s, with Brazil repeating the feat in the 2000s. Poland won in both 2014 and 2018, and the U.S. only won once, in 1986.

The women’s World Championship has a history of being unpredictable, at least in its earlier years. The Soviet Union won the first three competitions, as well as winning in 1970 and 1990. The last six competitions, however, have been won by five different teams: Cuba, Italy, the United States, Russia (twice), and the most recent winner, Serbia.

European Volleyball Championships

The international volleyball schedule is full of action. Besides a World Championship or Olympic event every two years, there are also continental championships taking place in the other two years, including the European Volleyball Championship.

As in the World Championship, both the men’s and women’s events are held at different times and at different locations; although, in this case, the men’s event tends to begin after the women’s event.

European Volleyball Championship Structure

Fortunately, the structure of the European Volleyball Championship is far less complex than the world Championship. The competition increased the number of entrants from 16 to 24 in 2019, with the group stage comprising four groups of six teams playing in a round-robin format. The four teams with the best records in each group then advance to the round of 16 before the competition proceeds to the knock-out phase.

Points are awarded in the group stage as they are in the Olympics, i.e. three points for a 3-0 or 3-1 win, two points for a 3-2 win, and a single point for a 3-2 loss.

History of European Volleyball Championship

The European Volleyball Championship began in 1948, with the first men’s event. The women’s event was introduced in the following year. Both events have featured in the same year ever since. The Championship was originally held once every four years, but in 1975, it became a biannual event.

While the Men’s event has seen nine different countries win a Gold medal, Russia has achieved great success (if including the Soviet Union), with 14 Gold medals out of a possible 31. Italy also enjoyed a period of dominance, winning six Gold medals from a possible eight between 1989 and 2005. Since that final year of Italian dominance, however, no country has won Gold in consecutive tournaments. Poland, Russia, Serbia, and Spain have each won a Gold medal at the championship. The Netherlands won Gold at the event in 1997, after beating Yugoslavia 3-1 in the final.

Russia (again including the Soviet Union) has enjoyed even more success in the women’s event, with 19 Gold medals from 31 events. That does include 10 from the first 11, however. Such dominance has yet to be repeated since. Other countries that have achieved success include Germany, Italy, and Poland, with two Gold medals each. Serbia won Gold three times, in 2011, 2017, and 2019. The Netherlands won Gold in 1995 and have been finalists on four occasions.

CEV Champions League

The CEV Champions League is the biggest club competition in Europe. There are two tournaments: one for men and one for women, and the competition is run alongside domestic schedules. In this way, it works very much like it does in the Champion League in football.

volleyball champions league

CEV Champions League Structure

Each year, there are 10 teams given automatic qualification for the CEV Champions League. Places are given to Europe’s best 10 domestic leagues, with additional places for teams from Belgium, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, and Turkey.
More places are assigned to teams that came through qualification, which usually consists of 10 teams.

When each of the remaining 20 teams has been decided, five groups of four teams are drawn. The group stage is played In a round-robin format, with each team playing every other team in the group twice. Points are determined by the total number of games won. If more than one team finishes with an equal number of points, the rankings are worked out by dividing the number of sets won by the number of sets lost.

Once the group stage is over, the winners of each group advance to the payoff stage, as do the three second-highest ranked teams. The playoffs are played in a knockout format, with each game played over two legs, aside from the final. Results are worked out using points, with a 3-0 or 3-1 win assigned three points, a 3-2 win assigned two points, and a 2-3 loss assigned one point. If the score is even after both legs, the two teams play a Golden Set, with the winning team being the one who first scores 15 points, as long as its by two clear points.

History of the CEV Champions League

The tournament, which was called the European Cup before 2000, began in 1959 for male players. The women’s tournament was introduced the following year.

In 2000, it was more difficult to predict which team would come out on top, with Germany, Italy, Russia, and France all having tasted success. Russia’s dominance, however, soon resurfaced. Russia won seven titles in a row, thanks to the play of Belogorie, Lokomotiv Novosibirsk, and Zenit-Kazan, with Zenit having won four of those in a row.

In the women’s tournament, the Soviet Union achieved huge success in the early years, with their clubs having won an astounding 22 titles. However, it is Turkish and Italian sides that have gone on to achieve more success in the last couple of decades. Since 2004/05, in fact, just one side from a country not called Turkey or Italy has won the tournament.

FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship

The FIVB Club World Championship takes place every year. The eight-team tournament sees the best teams from around the globe compete in a bid to name the world’s No.1 side. A single nation hosts each match in the men’s week-long tournament.

Once the men’s tournament is over, a women’s event commences in a different nation.

volleyball world championship

FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship Structure

The FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship features eight teams: the champions from Asia, Europe, and South America, along with the host nation’s best team, and up to four wild card teams.

In the preliminary round, there are eight teams divided equally into two groups. Each team plays each of the other teams in their group once, and the top two ranking teams advance to the semi-final stage. The two semi-final winners meet each other in the final, with the two semi-final losers playing in a match to determine third place.

History of the FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship

The men’s FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship was introduced in 1989, with the women’s version given its debut in 1991. The men’s game saw a lengthy hiatus, however, from, 1992 to 2009. The women’s game went through a similar experience from 1992-2010, with just one competition (1994) taking place between these years.

European clubs have dominated both the men’s and women’s competitions, with European clubs having won 11 of all 14 men’s competitions and nine of all 12 women’s tournaments. South American clubs won the remainder of the titles.

Italian clubs achieved a great deal of success early on in the men’s tournament, with four sides winning the first eight titles. They failed to win a title after 2012, however, until in 2018 when Trentino picked up title No. 5. The intervening years saw sides from Russia and Brazil achieve success in the competition.

Eredivisie League (Netherlands)

The Netherland’s Eredivisie volleyball league features a league for both men and women, with 10 teams playing in each league. Teams compete for the best ranking in a bid to advance to the season’s final phase. The women’s league is known as the DELA Eredivisie league and previously the name of the league in general was ‘A-League’.

Eredivisie Volleybal Structure

The 10 teams are made up of six teams from the championship pool, three teams from the relegation pool, and Talent Team Papendal (TTPA), which is a team made up of promising volleyball players aged between 14-18. The Talent Team doesn’t take part in either the championship or relegation pool. The top-ranked six teams participate in the championship. If the Talent Team ranks in the top six, the seventh-ranked team is added to the championship pool. The top two teams from the championship pool advance to the final in a best-of-five matchup in a bid to be crowned the best team in the Netherlands.
Those teams that aren’t included in the championship pool are placed in the relegation pool. The team that finished in ninth place in the relegation pool is relegated to the Top Division.

History of Eredivisie Volleybal

The league’s most storied teams includes Groningen-based Lycurgus, the Eredivisie’s reigning champi-ons. They enjoyed relative success in the ‘70s and ‘80s, although they failed to win a championship. They did, however, win their first Dutch championship in 2016 before repeating their success in 2019.