Lausanne, Switzerland, May 13, 2015 - The eight countries which lined up at the inaugural edition of the FIVB Volleyball World League in 1990 are joined by 24 of the best teams from around the world for the 26th edition of the premier annual competition for men's national teams, which will feature 32 teams for the first time in its history from May 16 through to July 19.
The competition has also got longer, running to ten weeks of mouth-watering volleyball, treating fans to a spectactle which begins with the Intercontinental round on May 16 and ends with the grand finale at the Maracanãzinho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 19.
In Euro League winners Montenegro and Kazakhstan, who finished third in the AVC Cup, another two strong nations make their debut in the FIVB World League this year. They bring the total number of countries to have played in the World League to 33.
Euro League runners-up Greece are back after a long break (their last appearance was in 2005). They are joined by African Nations champions Egypt (2010) and Venezuela (2009). Only Brazil and Italy have played in all 25 editions of the World League.
The two major volleyball nations top the list of World League winners. Brazil have nine titles to their name, followed by Italy with eight. However, the two once-dominant powers in the game have had to wait a long time for their next big victory. Italy last lifted the trophy a whole 15 years ago, back in 2000. Last year, despite home advantage in Florence in the final round, they could do no better than third place for the second year in a row.
Even Brazil, who have become so accustomed to success, have now had to wait five years for what would be a historic tenth title in the FIVB World League. Last year they had to settle for second place for the third time in the last four years, losing 1-3 to the United States in the final.
This has made the USA the third country in the last four years to win the World League, following Russia (2011, 2013) and Poland (2012), which goes to show just how exciting the competition has become. In the first 20 years - from 1990 to 2010 - Brazil and Italy scooped a total 17 titles between them.
The seven former winners are again in action this year: Brazil (nine titles), Italy (eight), Russia (three), defending champions USA (two), world champions Poland, Cuba and the Netherlands (one win each).
Another two countries have won medals in the FIVB World League: Serbia have four silvers and three bronze medals to their name, while France finished runners-up in 2006. Bulgaria have been a thankless fourth on five occasions. Brazil has hosted the final round five times.
Rio de Janeiro will host the Group 1 Finals, one year ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Brazil have once made the most of home advantage in the Finals - the Selecao claimed their first FIVB World League title in Sao Paulo in 1993. Italy (1991, 1992, 1994) and the Netherlands (1996) have also won titles on home soil.
It all began with just eight countries, who took part in the inaugural competition in 1990.
In 1991 the number of teams participating in the competition had risen to 10, while 12 nations competed from 1992-2000 and 2004-05. The field featured 16 teams from 2001-2003 and 2006-2012. 2013 saw 18 different countries competition, a figure which increased to 28 teams in 2014 and 32 this year.