The United States has not been in Olympic volleyball competition since 1968 and has never won an Olympic medal in the sport, but the current women's national team has the bigwigs buzzing in anticipation of good things to come in Moscow.

"Our girls are considered a clear threat to get a medal, and it wouldn't be a shock to the world if they win the gold," said Al Monaco, executive director of the United States Volleyball Association.

Only eight women's teams and 10 men's teams compete in the Olympics.

The field is determined by preliminary qualifying.

The U.S. women's team already has qualified, but the men are still trying. Their last chance will be in Bulgaria in January.

International volleyball competition may be relatively new in this country, but the U.S. approach to the sport is very advanced and geared for international competition.

The women's team has been living and training together full time in Colrado Springs since 1975 and the men has been training together in Dayton since 1977.

The women's team qualified for Moscow by finishing second to Cuba in the North America-Central America championship in April in Havana.

Here is how the qualifying works:

The defending Olympic champion, the world champion and the host country get automatic berths into the Games. They are joined by the North American-Central American champion, the South American champion, the Asian champion, the European champion and one at-large team.

Cuba is the current women's world champion, so it received an automatic berth. That enabled the second-place finisher in the North American-Central American championships, the United States, to qualify.

Japan, the defending Olympic champion, and Peru, South American champion, will join Cuba, Russia and the United States in the Olympic field. The Asian and European champions have not been determined.

The men's team, unfortunately, is not as well off as the women's team and right now is given no better than a 50-50 chance to make it to the Olympics.

The chances of qualifying in Bulgaria will depend on a number of college players who have not yet decided if they will try out for the team.

"If the kids we need want to play in the Olympics, they are going to have to drop out of school in order to train and we just don't know if they can and will make the sacrifice," Monaco said.

The men have the same qualifying procedure as the women, except they also take the African champion and the first two finishers in the Bulgarian qualifying tournament.

Already having earned spots in the men's competition in Moscow are Poland (the defending champion), the Soviet Union, Italy (by virtue of finishing second to the Soviets in the world championships), North-Central American champion Cuba and South American champion Brazil. The other berths have not been determined.