Last week USAV announced that the 2015 final round will be played in Omaha, Nebraska next summer. This is the first time ever that an event of this magnitude has been held in the States. Grand Prix is the equivalent of World League for the men, and like World League there is a substantial amount of money at stake for the winner. But unlike World League, which features matches all over the world and has been played regularly in the U.S., the Grand Prix final round has not been played here even once since it started back in 1993.
For the most part, the Grand Prix final round is almost always somewhere in Asia with just a few exceptions. Now, much of the funding for this tournament comes from Asian sponsors, so this makes sense. But if the FIVB were going to spread this thing around the world, the U.S. would be a natural choice. With our team almost always making the final round and Nebraska being a hotbed for the sport, we should be able to generate a great crowd for this top level volleyball action.
Only six countries have ever won this month-long tournament and the United States is one of them. USA has won the title five times, which is second only to Brazil with nine. That's 14 of 21 titles going to either the U.S. or Brazil. Russia has the next most with three, Cuba has two while China and the Netherlands each have one.But the final round has only been played outside of Asia three times and each of those times the host country was Italy. Until now. With the announcement that USAV will host the Grand Prix final round in 2015, it signifies that a new era may be upon us. An era in which the U.S. is an active part of the international volleyball scene.
Though there are many theories, it’s unclear exactly why there have been so few international events in the U.S. for both indoor and beach. But with the addition of the World Series of Beach Volleyball’s inaugural event last summer and its inclusion once again in the 2014 calendar, the Grand Prix in Omaha seems to mark a change in thinking by the FIVB.Can we chalk it up to the influence of new FIVB President Ary Graça? When he first took office he famously asked the question “What happened in the United States?” With that he said he planned to make an attempt to grow the game in the place where it originally started. It appears as if he’s keeping his word.
The Grand Prix final round is by far the biggest event that the U.S. has hosted on the women’s side outside of the Olympic Games. And 2015 is a great year to have it. While 2013 and 2014 are used mostly to gain experience for young developmental players, 2015 is when things begin to come together. With just one year remaining before the Games, teams will be shaping up and beginning to bring their A players and their A games.
It’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase high level volleyball and bring in new volleyball fans. It will give us a glimpse at the teams that will be fighting for a podium spot in Rio. And hopefully it will mean some television time for international indoor volleyball, something that Americans rarely get to see outside of the Olympics.
We’ll get a chance to see which of the new young players has a chance to earn a starting spot and we'll begin to see the new identity of the 2016 team. These are exciting times. And if we play our cards right, it could be just the beginning.