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International Volleyball Fact Sheet


Many Americans incorrectly believe the sport of volleyball rises to prominence only once every four years as part of the Olympic Games and/or that it is primarily a recreational game to be played in the backyard or at picnics. In fact, volleyball has major international competitions every year and, at its highest level, is a physically demanding sport played by some of the world's most elite athletes. Of course, volleyball is also a popular recreational activity enjoyed by more than 37 million persons in the U.S. (more than any team sport but basketball) and more than 800 million persons globally, making it the world's most popular participant sport. This fact sheet is designed to provide more understanding about international volleyball and its major competition, including the Olympic Games.


The international governing body for volleyball is the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland. The FIVB is the world's largest sports federation, with more than 200 member nations. Under the direction of its president, Dr. Ruben Acosta of Mexico, the FIVB oversees the administration of volleyball throughout the world and is responsible for producing several major events, including the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup, World League and World Grand Prix.


The national governing body (NGB) for volleyball in the U.S. is USA Volleyball, formerly known as the United States Volleyball Association. Founded in 1928, USA Volleyball is responsible for the administration of all forms of volleyball in the United States, including producing the annual U.S. Open Volleyball Championships, Junior Olympic Volleyball Championships, and U.S. Outdoor National Championships. As mandated by the 1978 Amateur Sports Act, USA Volleyball is responsible to the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and the FIVB for training and nominating the teams which represent the United States in the Olympic Games and other important volleyball competitions worldwide.


The four major events on the international volleyball calendar are the Olympic Games (men and women, indoors and beach) World Championships (men and women, indoors), World Cup (men and women, indoors) and World League (men, indoors)/World Grand Prix (women, indoors). All events are conducted quadrennially, with the exception of the annual World League and World Grand Prix.


Volleyball made its Olympic debut in 1964 at Tokyo. Two-player beach volleyball will debut at the 1996 Olympics in Atlaata. Indoors, 12 men's and ten women's teams will earn the right to compete m Atlanta, based on the following criteria:

Host Country Host Country
1992 Olympic Champion 1992 Olympic Champion
1994 World Champion 1994 World Champion
1995 World Cup Champion 1995 World Cup Champion
1993 NORCECA Champion 1993 NORCECA Champion
South American Zone Champion South American Zone Champion
European Zone Champion European Zone Champion
Asian Zone Champion Asian Zone Champion
African Zone Champion Winner and Runner-up, Olympic Qual. Tournament
Winner, Olympic Qual. Tournament A 
Winner, Olympic Qual. Tournament B 
Winner, Olympic Qual. Tournament C 

NOTE: The second-place team in a particular competition listed above will qualify for the Olympics if a previously qualified team wins that competition. If both the first- and second-place teams in a particular competition listed above are previously qualified, the third-place team will qualify, and so on. Teams participating in Olympic qualification tournaments (held in the Olympic year) will be the host country and the highest-ranking; non-qualified teams from each zone.

Olympic Champions (Men's) Olympic Champions (Women's)
1964 - Soviet Union (USA, 9th) 1964 - Japan (USA, 5th)
1968 - Soviet Union (USA 7th) 1968 - Soviet Union (USA, 8th)
1972 - Japan (USA, DNQ) 1972 - Soviet Union (USA, DNQ)
1976 - Poland (USA, DNQ) 1976 - Japan (USA, DNQ)
1980 - Soviet Union, (USA, DNQ) 1980 - Soviet Union (USA, DNP)
1984 - USA 1984 - China (USA, 2nd)
1988 - USA 1988 - Soviet Union (USA, 7th)
1992 - Brazil (USA, 3rd) 1992 - Cuba (USA, 3rd)
1996 -  1996 -
Beach volleyball will feature 24 men's and 16 women's teams, three of each from the U.S. Qualification procedures are being determined


The World Championships are held every four years in the second year after the Olympics. The site, usually separate for the men's and women's competitions, is determined by the FIVB, based on bids received from interested cities. The 1 6 berths in the World Championships for men and women are gained in the following manner:

  • Host Country
  • The Seven Highest Finishers in the Previous World Championship
  • The Winners of the Five Zone Championships
  • The Top Three Finishers at the World Challenge Cup (held early in the World Championship year ands thus, a special qualifying tournament).
World Champions (Men's) World Champions (Women's)
1949 - Soviet Union (USA, DNP)  
1952 - Soviet Union (USA, DNP) 1952 - Soviet Union (USA, DNP)
1956 - Czechoslovakia (USA, 6th) 1956 - Soviet Union (USA, 9th)
1960 - Soviet Union (USA, 7th) 1960 - Soviet Union (USA, 6th)
1962 - Soviet Union, (USA, DNP) 1962 - Japan (USA, DNP)
1966 - Czechoslovakia (USA, 11th) 1966 - Japan (USA, 2nd)
1970 - East Germany (USA, 15th) 1970 - Soviet Union (USA, 11th)
1974 -  1974 - Japan (USA, 12th)
1978 - Soviet Union (USA, 19th) 1978 - Cuba (USA, 5th)
1982 - Soviet Union (USA, 13th) 1982 - China (USA 3rd)
1986 - USA 1986 - China (USA, 10th)
1990 - Italy (USA, 13th) 1990 - Soviet Union (USA, 3rd)
1994 - Italy (USA, 3rd) 1994 - Cuba (USA, 6th)


The World Cup is held every four years, m the year prior to the Olympic Games. Though originally held at various sites, it has been hosted by Japan since 1977. Prior to 1991, the World Cup took place in the year immediately following the Olympics. The 12 berths in the World Cup for men and women are gained in the following manner:

  • Host Country
  • Defending World Cup Champion Winners of the five zone championships
  • The highest-placed team (of each zone) not qualified for the Olympic Games, in accordance with the ranking of the zone championships.
World Cup Champions (Men's) World Cup Champions (Women's)
1965 - Soviet Union (USA, DNP)  
1969 - East Germany (USA, DNP)  
1973 - Soviet Union (USA, 7th) 1973 - Soviet Union (USA, 6th)
1977 - Soviet Union (USA, 10th) 1977 - Japan (USA, 7th)
1981 - Soviet Union, (USA, DNQ) 1981 - China (USA 4th)
1985 - USA 1985 - China (USA, DNQ)
1989 - Cuba (USA, 4th) 1989 - Cuba (USA, DNQ)
1991 - Soviet Union (USA, 3rd) 1991 - Cuba (USA, 4th)


The volleyball world is divided into five international zones. The U.S. is in the NORCECA (North America/Central America/Caribbean) Zone, with championships held every two years at various sites. The other zones are Europe, Asia Africa, and South America The frequency of zone championship competition varies in each of the five sections. Any nation in a particular zone may participate in its zone championships whenever such a competition is conducted.

NORCECA Champions (Men's) 1995 NORCECA Champions (Women's)
1969 - Cuba (USA, 3rd) 1969 - Mexico (USA, 6th)
1971 - Cuba (USA, 2nd) 1971 Mexico (USA, 3rd)
1973 - USA 1973 - Cuba (USA 3rd)
1975 - Cuba (USA, 3rd) 1975 - Cuba (USA, 2nd)
1977 - Cuba, (USA, SE)  1977 - Cuba (USA, 3rd)
1979 - Cuba (USA, 5th) 1979 - Cuba (USA, 2nd)
1981 - Cuba (USA, 2nd) 1981 - USA
1983 - USA  1983 - USA
1985 - USA 1985 - Cuba (USA, 2nd)
1987 - Cuba (USA, 2nd) 1987 - Cuba USA, 2nd)
1989 - Cuba (USA, 3rd) 1989 - Cuba (USA, 3rd)
1991 - Cuba (USA, 2nd) 1991 - Cuba (USA, 2nd)
1993 - Cuba (USA, 2nd)  1993 - Cuba (USA, 2nd)


The World League features the top dozen men's volleyball teams in the world in competition for a total purse that has grown to $6-million (with $1 million to the winning team) since the inaugurate season of 1990, during which the total purse was $1-million. Teams are divided into three, four team pools and each team plays the other teams in its pool four times (twice at home, twice on the road). The winner and runner-up in each pool advance to a seeded playoff round. The regular season is played in May and June, with playoffs in early July.

The World Grand Prix is the women's volleyball counterpart to World League, and offers a total purse of $1.5-million (with a $300,000 championship prize) to its 12-team field Teams play in different four-team pools each weekend, at round-robin tournaments hosted by cities throughout Australia and Asia The three teams with the best records join the host country for the Grand Prix Finals. The regular season is played in August and early September, with playoff; in mid-September.

World League Champions World Grand Prix Champions
1990 - Italy (USA, 4th in pool)  
1991 - Italy (USA, 3rd in pool)  
1992 - Italy (USA, 1st in pool, 3rd overall)  
1993 - Brazil (USA, 5th in pool) 1993 - Cuba (USA, 7th reg season)
1994 - Italy (USA, 4th in pool) 1994 - Brazil (USA, 5th reg season)

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