U.S. men's volleyball to play qualifier in front of American crowd
(AP) -- The U.S. men's national volleyball team will have home-country advantage in May when the NORCECA Olympic qualification tournament comes to Long Beach, Calif.
The winner of the eight-team event at the Walter Pyramid will earn a spot in the London Olympics this summer.
It is the first time the NORCECA Men's Continental Olympic Qualification Tournament has been held in the United States. The other teams competing in the event May 7-12 will be Cuba, Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
"I think every time you play at home, it is an advantage," USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal said Friday. "Certainly, not having to travel, not having to live out of a suitcase, being close to family and friends and having played in that venue before, I think there is an advantage. The downside is that sometimes playing in front of so many people you know puts a little bit of added pressure on the home team - but I think if you look across a lot of sports, the home team tends to win more than they lose."
NORCECA is the North America, Central America and Caribbean volleyball confederation, representing 35 countries. The confederation stages the continental championships for men's and women's indoor volleyball, as well as beach volleyball. It also holds the Olympic and World Championship zone qualification tournaments.
USA Volleyball bid on the event, which is normally played in January.
"This is the first time this event is being held so close to the Olympics, or so late in the year," Beal said. "So that puts a little more tension in the event, a little more anxiety in the air for the teams."
Twelve men's teams will play in the London Olympics. Great Britain has already earned a berth as host, while Russia, Poland and Brazil qualified with the top finishes in last year's FIVB World Cup.
The defending Olympic champion U.S. national team is looking to qualify for its seventh straight Olympics. The men, who train at the American Sports Centers in Anaheim, Calif. are currently ranked sixth in the world.
Cuba is currently ranked fifth in the FIVB world rankings.
"This is by no means an easy route to the Olympic Games," Beal said. "Our zone, our confederation, has improved every year in quality and quantity of men's programs. This is going to be a real challenge. We need every fan to be there and to be cheering for the USA team and to make the home court a real advantage for us."
USA Volleyball expects to announce ticket prices soon, said Beal, who recently announced that he is seeking the presidency of the FIVB, the international governing body for volleyball.
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