Team USA and Italy not only won the gold and silver medals at last month’s FIVB Men’s World Cup but also confirmed their qualification for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, joining hosts Brazil in the 12-team event.
The 10 disappointed teams who missed out in Japan must now qualify for one of the remaining nine Olympic berths the hard way.
So what does YOUR team need to do to check-in at Rio next year?
Let’s start with the continent that is home to six of the top 10 teams in the world rankings (as of September, 2015) – Europe.
This cycle’s qualification system is tough on the teams from the Old Continent.
Six Europeans teams competed for the gold medal back in London, 2012.
Poland and Russia punched their tickets alongside Brazil at the World Cup 2011 (four years ago all medallists secured Olympic qualification), Italy won the continental qualifier, while Serbia, Germany and Bulgaria won three of the four organised intercontinental qualification tournaments.
This year the biggest disappointment landed in the European camp with Poland and Russia finishing third and fourth respectively at the World Cup.
And with World Cup winners USA taking one of the two qualifying spots on offer, Europe have already lost one possible berth at the Olympics.
World number two Russia and third-ranked Poland now have to move onto the European Championships hosted by Italy and Bulgaria on October 9-18, but the result will not impact their Olympic qualification path.
Potential EuroVolley medals will have no bearing on Olympic qualification.
CEV rules state that the eight best teams of the federation’s rankings as of November 1 will be eligible to play the 2016 Olympic Games European Qualification tournament in Berlin, played from January 5-10.
The winner will join Brazil, USA and Italy in Rio, while the second and third team will continue the fight at the World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Japan in May-June.
As of October, 2015 the best eight teams in Europe are Russia, Italy, Serbia, Poland, Bulgaria, Germany, France and Finland – but with Italy already being qualified, ninth-ranked Slovakia currently occupies the eighth spot.
While the European Championship result won’t directly impact Olympic qualification, it could determine which teams contest the European Qualification tournament.
A strong finish for teams on the outside including, Belgium (10th) and Slovenia (11th) could clinch a spot in the tournament in Berlin.
Any misstep in Berlin may cost teams dearly. Six European teams are currently among the top 10 teams in the FIVB ranking – but not all of them can go to Rio.