U.S. men’s volleyball team qualifies for Rio Olympics

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The U.S. men’s volleyball team will compete in its ninth straight Olympics, qualifying for Rio by winning the FIVB World Cup in Japan on Wednesday.

The U.S. went 10-1 in the tournament where the top two nations earned Olympic spots. Italy and 2014 World champion Poland also went 10-1, with the U.S. and Italy bettering Poland via tiebreakers. It marked the U.S.’ first World Cup title since 1985.

Brazil, the U.S. and Italy are the first three nations in the 12-team Olympic tournament. The other nine will be determined via later qualifying events.

The U.S. men earned gold at the 2008 Olympics and were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympics (won by Russia) and the 2014 World Championship (won by Poland). Brazil is ranked No. 1 in the world and will of course benefit from home-court advantage in volleyball-mad Rio.

The U.S., ranked No. 5, could feature a roster in Rio that’s very different than four years ago. Stalwarts Clay Stanley and Reid Priddy, both three-time Olympians, face younger competition for roster spots (and Priddy is trying to come back from major injury).

Neither Stanley nor Priddy was on the FIVB World Cup roster of 14 players. The Olympic roster size is 12.

Matt Anderson, 28 and a 2012 Olympian, is the three-time reigning U.S. men’s indoor Player of the Year. Taylor Sander, 23, leads the wave of players eyeing their first Olympics.

The last three U.S. Olympic men’s teams have included zero players younger than 25.

The U.S. women’s volleyball team, the 2014 World champion, will get its next shot at qualifying for Rio at a North American tournament in January.

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