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Big changes: Volleyball World announces new Beach Pro Tour to replace FIVB

The FIVB will have a new look in the 2022 beach volleyball season and beyond — namely that it isn’t the FIVB at all.

On Saturday morning, Volleyball World, the upstart partnership between the FIVB and CVC Capital Partners, announced the establishment of a new tour: the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour, a new look on how professional beach volleyball will be played around the globe.

While much will stay relatively the same, the most notable change is the elimination of the five-star system, which is being replaced by a circuit with three levels: The Elite 16, Challenge, and Futures, all of which are aptly named to represent their respective levels of play.

The Elite 16 features the top 16 teams in the world based on points. There are no qualifiers for the Elite 16, and how teams will rise and fall from the challenger level to Elite 16 is yet to be seen, but this much is clear: Beginning the year in the Elite 16 is valuable beyond words.

The format of The Elite 16 is noteworthy as well. Gone is the typical modified pool play, and returning is the round robin style featured in the Olympic Games. Four pools of four will break out into a single-elimination bracket.

The fan experience, too, is being improved, with what Volleyball World describes as “a fan area worthy of a festival and a sport presentation like no other.” It calls to mind the focus of the World Series of Beach Volleyball or the short-lived p1440 pro tour, both of which featured concerts and various other activations for fans to enjoy.

With only 16 teams being featured in the Elite 16, the Challenger level will be thick, not unlike a four-star from the erstwhile star system. Twenty-four teams per gender will compete in the Challenger events, which will be play in a modified pool format and feature a 32-team qualifier.

And, at the bottom, is the Futures, which are akin to the one-stars: 16 team main draws competing in a modified pool format.

“The Futures allows cities to develop the sport in their countries and build up the capabilities of promising youth teams,” Volleyball World wrote in a release.

It isn’t uncommon for the FIVB to change its format after an Olympic Games. The star system was established in the wake of the Rio Olympics, replacing the two-tiered system that preceded it, which featured only opens and Grand Slams. The jump from a two-level tour to five, however, proved to be drastic, with growing pains and unexpected problems, primarily a lack of incentive to host anything but four- and one-stars.

Much is yet to be known about the new Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour, namely the mobility from challenger to Elite 16, and how the format will impact the qualification process for the Olympic Games.

A tentative schedule, however, has been released, with eight Elite 16 events and four challengers, beginning with Rio de Janeiro in March, concluding in Sydney, Australia in November.

The final event of the year is similar to this week’s World Tour Finals: The 10 best teams based on points accumulated throughout the season.

This is the full list of events that have been announced:

  • March: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — Elite 16
  • March 24-27: Mexico — Elite 16
  • April 7-10: Cape Town, South Africa — Elite 16
  • May 12-15: Spain — Challenger
  • May 26-29: Ostrava, Czech Republic — Elite 16
  • June 2-5: Jurmala, Latvia — Elite 16
  • July 7-10: Gstaad, Switzerland — Elite 16
  • October 4-8: Red Sea, Egypt — Challenger
  • October: Nanjing, China — Challenger
  • October: Doha, Qatar — Elite 16
  • November: Manly Beach, Australia — Challenger
  • November 24-27: Sydney, Australia — Elite 16