Volleyball Leagues and Competitions: A Guide

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Despite not being considered a particularly ‘mainstream’ sport in Canada, volleyball, nevertheless, has a broad following and millions of players around the world. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to some of the biggest volleyball leagues and competitions to help you with volleyball betting.

Somewhat unusually in sport, club volleyball falls in the shadow of international volleyball, with the average sports fan much more aware of the international matches and competitions rather than the domestic action. Here, we’ll take a look at the top volleyball events in the world; valuable information when placing your bet. Below, we’ll cover Olympic volleyball, the World Championships and the European Championship, as well as the biggest club competitions, such as the European Champions League, the Club World Championships and Canadas National Volleyball League.

About Volleyball: Rules and Variants

First, though, it’s worth noting that volleyball can come in various shapes and sizes, with the two main formats of the sport being ‘indoor’ volleyball and beach volleyball (AKA’ beach volley’).

The objectives in both indoor and beach volleyball are mostly the same: teams try to outscore their opponents by getting points for ‘downing’ the ball in the opponents’ court. Players can only touch the ball once at a time.

The main difference between indoor and beach volleyball, though, is the number of players. Indoor volleyball sees six players on each team, while beach volley only has two players per team. Indoor courts are also a little bigger, measuring 18m x 9m compared to the beach courts of 16m x 8m. The other main difference between the two games comes in the scoring, with indoor games taking place over a ‘best of five’ sets and 25 points needed to win each set, while beach volley matches are played over the ‘best of three’ sets and only to 21 points. That said, both variants require teams to win each set by two clear points, and the final set in each (if needed) only runs to 15 points. Knowing basic facts like these are essential when creating betting strategies.

Olympic Volleyball

Without a doubt, the biggest volleyball competition out there is the Olympics. Although this takes place just once every four years, it draws a massive global following, from both devoted supporters and those with only a casual interest in the sport. It’s not just indoor volleyball that has its event at the Olympics, beach volley is also well-represented, and one could well argue that this variant has an even bigger following than the indoor game.

volleyball olympics

Olympic Volleyball Format

There are men’s and women’s events in both indoor and beach volleyball at the Olympics. Each indoor event sees 12 teams entering, while beach volley sees 24 teams take part.

Teams can qualify for the indoor volleyball event in several ways. The host country automatically qualifies and is then joined by the six top teams from the Intercontinental Qualifiers explicitly created for the Olympics. A single qualifier from each continent makes up the rest of the teams.

Beach volley qualification is a little more complicated. Again, the host nation qualifies, as does the winner of the preceding World Championships. However, the majority of the teams (15 in total) qualify through the FIVB Beach Volleyball Olympic Ranking system. The rest of the qualifiers are drawn from the winners of each continental cup, plus two entrants from an FIVB Olympic Qualification Tournament.

The indoor events start with a preliminary round made up of two groups of six teams, with each team playing each other once. The top four teams from each group then proceed to the knockout stage, starting with the quarter-finals. The top-ranking team from Pool A plays the fourth-ranking team in Pool B, while the second-placed team in Pool A plays the third-ranking team in Pool B and so on. A 3-0 or 3-1 victory in the group stages awards three points, a 3-2 win awards two points, and a 2-3 loss awards one point.

Beach volley starts with six groups of four teams at the preliminary round, with the top two teams from each group guaranteed a spot in the last 16, as well as the two third-placed teams with the best records. The “lucky loser playoffs” decide the final two places for the last 16 in which the remaining third-place teams are paired off into a single playoff match, with the winner of each proceeding to the knockout stages. The results determine the awarded Beach volley points: two points for a win, one for a loss and zero for a forfeit.

After reaching the knockout stages, the winner of each match will progress to the next stage while the loser exits the tournament. The final game will see the winner take Gold, and the loser takes Silver, while a third-place match between the losing semi-finalists will see the winner earn Bronze.

Olympic Volleyball History

Indoor volleyball has been a Summer Olympic event since 1964, with men’s and women’s events taking place in every edition since. Beach volley, though, is a much more recent event, first taking place at the Olympics in 1996.

As of 2016, Brazil, the former Soviet Union and the United States have enjoyed the most success in men’s indoor volleyball, each winning three Golds each. The Soviets also enjoyed tremendous success in the women’s event with four Golds, although China and Cuba are now pushing them close with three Golds a-piece. Brazil has also proved to be a force in recent years, winning Gold in 2008 and 2012 and finishing in the top four in each of the four preceding events.

In beach volley, the United States has proven to be the team to beat, winning Gold three times in both the men’s and women’s events. This detail means you should never discount them in your volleyball betting strategy. Again, Brazil is pushing close, having reached the final in five of six events in men’s beach volley and four out of six women’s events.

FIVB Volleyball World Championship

Also taking place every four years – halfway between Olympic events – the Volleyball World Championships is another popular international indoor volleyball tournament.

Although there are both men’s and women’s events, they typically don’t take place at the same time – or in the same place. The 2018 tournaments, for example, saw the men’s event take place from the 9th to the 30th of September in Italy and Bulgaria, while the women’s event followed on immediately from the 29th of September to the 20th of October in Japan.

FIVB Volleyball World Championship Format

Since 1998, 24 teams have qualified for each tournament, with qualification determined in numerous ways, including places for the host nation, previous winners and then top-ranking teams from other international competitions.

The tournament itself spreads over four rounds. The first round is a group stage played in a round-robin system, with four pools of six teams and the top four teams from each pool qualifying for the second round.

Four more pools of four teams meet in another round-robin system in the second round. Things get more complicated here, though, as rankings are calculated by adding together the points from both the first and second rounds. The top team in each pool qualifies for the third round, along with the two best second-placed teams.

The third round sees the six teams split into two further pools, with each side facing their other group opponents. The top two from each of these groups then proceed to the final round, starting with the semi-finals. The group winners face the second-place team from the other group, with the winners of each match meeting in the final, while the two losing sides face off in a third-place match.

FIVB Volleyball World Championship History

The first men’s World Volleyball Championship took place in 1949 and has taken place every four years since the second tournament in 1952. The women’s competition wasn’t far behind and started in 1952.

Over history, different teams in the men’s tournament have dominated in each decade. The most successful team ever, though, has been the Soviet Union, which won six of the first ten tournaments up until 1982, with only East Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia (twice) disrupting their domination. The US won their first and only title in 1986 before Italy won three consecutive titles in the 1990s and Brazil followed suit with three back-to-back wins in the 2000s. The 2014 and 2018 events, though, were both won by Poland, who beat Brazil in both finals.

The women’s World Championship has been harder to predict over history, although the Soviet Union did win the opening three events, followed by further titles in 1970 and 1990. The last six tournaments, though, have seen five different winners: Cuba, Italy, Russia (twice), the United States and, most recently, Serbia, in 2018.

European Volleyball Championships

The international volleyball calendar is a very busy one. Not only is there an Olympic or World Championship event every other year, but the intervening years also feature continental championships, including the European Volleyball Championships.

Like the World Championships, the men’s and women’s tournaments take place at different times and locations, although the women’s tournament tends to run shortly before the men’s event in this instance.

European Volleyball Championships Format

Thankfully, the format of the European Volleyball Championships is much simpler than the World Championships. The tournaments were expanded from 16 to 24 teams for the 2019 edition, starting with four groups of six teams in a round-robin format. The top four teams from each of these pools then head to the last 16 of the tournament to commence the knockout stage.

Points in the group stage are awarded in the same manner as the Olympics, with three points awarded for a 3-0 or 3-1 win, two points for a narrow 3-2 victory, and one point awarded if you lose 2-3.

European Volleyball Championships History

The first European Volleyball Championships took place with a men’s event in 1948, followed by a women’s in 1949. Since then, men’s and women’s events have taken place in the same year. Initially, the European Championships took place every four years but changed to a biannual event in 1975.

Although nine different teams have won Gold at the men’s European Championships, Russia (including the records of the former Soviet Union) has enjoyed great success at the event, winning a total of 14 out of a possible 31 gold medals. Italy, too, had a dominant period, winning six out of eight golds between 1989 and 2005. However, no team has managed to defend its title since Italy’s 2005 victory successfully. Between 2007 and 2019, Spain, Poland, Serbia, Russia and France were all crowned European Champions.

In the women’s event, Russia (including the Soviet Union) has been even more dominant, winning 19 out of 31 Golds – although this does include them winning 10 of the first 11 events. No team has dominated to that extent since. Other successful sides at the tournament include Germany, Poland and Italy – who have each won Gold twice – as well as Serbia, crowned champions in 2011, 2017 and 2019.

CEV Champions League

Europe’s premier club competition is the CEV Champions League. There are separate men’s and women’s tournaments, and the contest runs concurrently alongside the domestic schedule – much in the same way as the football’s Champions League does.

volleyball champion league

CEV Champions League Format

Eighteen teams automatically qualify for the CEV Champions League each year. Awarded positions in the competition go to the top 10 ranking domestic league Europe, with other places designated to the leagues of Italy, Russia, Poland, Germany, Turkey and Belgium.

Two further places are awarded to teams who come through qualification, composed typically of 10 teams – usually including the top UK team.

Once deciding the final 20 teams, a draw determines five pools of four teams. A playing round with round-robin format commences, with each team playing each other twice (once home and once away). Pools are organized by the number of games won, and if this is equal, the set quotient (total number of sets won divided by total sets lost) is used to determine positions.

At the end of the game rounds, the pool winners each qualify for the playoffs, along with three best second-place teams. The playoff round comes in a standard knockout format, with all games played over two legs – apart from the final. Calculated points over two leagues determine the results: three points awarded for a 3-0 or 3-1 victory, two points for a 3-2 win and a single point for a 2-3 loss. If the scores are level after two legs, a Golden Set is played, with the winner being the first team to reach 15 points (by at least two clear points). The final consists of a single match at a neutral venue.

CEV Champions League History

The competition, known as the European Cup until 2000, was started in 1959 for men, with the women’s version beginning a year later in 1960. It has been played every year since.

Soviet and Russian teams have, by some distance, enjoyed the most success in the competition. CSKA Moscow has won the tournament 13 times, although the most recent of these came in 1991. After CSKA’s last titles, Italian sides began to dominate the competition, with six different Italian teams winning the next nine editions of the competitions.

After the millennium, it became much harder to predict the nationality of the team to win the competition, with French, Russian, Italian and German sides sharing success. However, the Russian dominance resumed a few years later, with Zenit-Kazan, Lokomotiv Novosibirsk and Belogorie helping Russia to a seven-year winning streak – which included Zenit winning four titles in a row.

In the women’s game, the Soviet Union dominated the competition in its early years, winning a remarkable 22 titles among its clubs. It is, however, the Italian and Turkish sides that have enjoyed the most success in the past couple of decades. Indeed, since 2004/05, only one non-Italian or Turkish team has won the competition.

FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship

The FIVB Club World Championship is an exclusive eight-team annual club competition that pits each continents’ top teams against one another to determine who is the best team in the world. Tournaments take place at a single host nation, with the competition spread over a week.

The men’s competition typically takes place first in one host nation, followed by the women’s tournament a week later at another location.

volleyball world championship

FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship Format

Eight teams enter the FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship: the European, South American and Asian champions, plus the top team from the host nation, as well as up to four wild card entries.

The preliminary round sees the eight teams split into two pools of four teams. Each team then plays each other once, with the top two teams then proceeding directly to the semi-finals. The semi-finals are played over one leg, with the winner of each meeting in the final, while the losing semi-finalists face each other in a 3rd place match.

FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship History

The men’s FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship was started in 1989, while the women’s version started two years later in 1991. However, the competition had a long hiatus from 1992 to 2009 in the men’s game, while the women’s competition had a similar break with only a 1994 competition filling the void between 1992 and 2010.

Both the men’s and women’s tournaments have been dominated by European sides, with CEV (European) sides winning 11 out of 14 of the men’s competitions, and nine out of 12 women’s editions also being won by European teams. CSV (South American) sides have won the remaining titles in both the men’s and women’s games.

The Italians enjoyed massive success in the men’s competition, to begin with, winning the opening eight tournaments with four different teams. After 2012, though, no Italian side won the men’s title until Trentino collected their fifth title in 2018. In the time between, a mixture of Brazilian and Russian teams won the competition.

The Canadian Volleyball League

The Canadian Volleyball League is relatively new, as it was launched in Toronto in 2017 as a way of promoting the sport in Canada. The league is a blend of post-secondary professional athletes, top USport and CCAA players and National team members. Players can participate from outside of the country as well as within.

The Canadian Volleyball League Format

There are a total of four men’s and four women’s teams playing over two months in both Toronto and Calgary for a total of 16 teams. The members of each team are chosen via a draft. The winner of the Toronto League plays the winner of the Calgary League in the Canadian Volleyball League Championships.

The History of Volleyball in Canada

After indoor volleyball was invented in 1895, Canada was the first country outside of the United States to adopt it with competitions held in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa.

Canada would participate in the 1936 Berlin Olympics with 21 other countries. The Canadian Volleyball Association (CVA) was founded in 1953, at which time it joined the FIVB. The Canadian men’s team entered the Pan Am Games in 1959 in Chicago. Fast-forward almost 20 years, and Canada would add Pan Am game medals, NORCECA Championships and the World Championships.

As the decades rolled on, the Canadian women’s and men’s teams would continue to add to their medal haul. This includes men’s Gold in NORCECA Championships in 2016.

In 2017, The Canadian Volleyball League was created to take volleyball to the next level in this country and would consist of eight men’s and eight women’s teams.