The women's national teams of Italy and Japan will be among the ones fighting for a spot at the Paris Games

Over the course of its seven years of existence, the Volleyball Nations League has established itself as one of the most prestigious and relevant international volleyball tournaments, but the 2024 edition will bring added weight to the event's already high level of importance.

For the first time, the VNL will play a major role in the Olympic qualification process that will take 12 men’s and women’s national teams to the Paris 2024 Games in a few months.

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Seven national teams in each gender have already booked their tickets to Paris – host country France and the six men’s and women’s sides that succeeded at last year’s Volleyball Olympic Qualifier Tournaments.

The five remaining spots per gender will be determined via the FIVB Volleyball World Rankings in June, meaning that the Preliminary Phase matches of the VNL 2024 will heavily influence the final positions of teams competing in it.

To ensure the universality principle at the Olympics, each of the five continents needs to be represented in Paris, so one of the five spots still up for grabs in each gender will necessarily be assigned to a national team from Africa, a continent that won’t appear in the VNL 2024, therefore limiting the number of berths available to four in each gender.

Because of how the FIVB World Rankings works, every match of the VNL Preliminary Phase will impact the total points of the teams involved. The number of points won or lost during matches varies depending on the position occupied by the teams involved in the FIVB World Rankings.

Facing higher-ranked opponents brings a better opportunity to increase points in the case of a win and a smaller chance of dropping them with a loss. On the other hand, meeting lower-ranked rivals limits the ceiling of potential earnings with a triumph while offering a bigger risk of losing a more significant number of points in case of a setback.

Looking at the campaign of last year’s VNL champions and World Ranking leaders Poland, we can see how exactly that happens as while they earned 8.01 points with a 3-0 win over world No. 5 Brazil, they also dropped 17.03 points when they lost in straight sets to Serbia, who are currently ranked ninth.

Among the women, World Ranking leaders and reigning VNL champions Türkiye also experienced the competitiveness generated by the system, collecting 13.16 points with a 3-0 win over fifth-placed Italy and losing 11.82 when they were swept by seventh-placed Poland.

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The men’s national teams of Italy (342.43 points), Argentina (314.35), Slovenia (307.12) and Serbia (253.22) enter the VNL 2024 as the most likely candidates to take the four spots at Paris 2024, but Cuba (236.96), the Netherlands (214.58), Türkiye (210.73), Iran (207.82) and Bulgaria (160.07) also have chances.

On the women’s side, Italy (338.97), China (329.65), Japan (305.09) and the Netherlands (287.94) are the four best-ranked teams not yet qualified. Canada (265.6), Germany (228.36), Thailand (222.00) and Bulgaria (165.39) will try to improve their chances with good results in the VNL while Korea (93.72) appear far behind.

The VNL 2024 starts on May 14, with women’s pools taking place in Antalya, Türkiye, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The following week, the same cities will host the first men’s matches of the sixth edition of the tournament.

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