Women’s soccer isn’t the only sport in which the USA is a world power but struggles to keep a league of its own. Volleyball and water polo are in the same boat.
(Yes, this is indoor volleyball. Beach volleyball, like tennis and other sports for individuals and pairs, has an international circuit and the reborn AVP. Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal just clinched the FIVB beach tour title for the year.)
As it stands now, most U.S. players go overseas. Check the Olympic rosters for the men’s and women’s team and count the countries represented: Italy (3 men/3 women), Russia (3 men/2 women), Poland (3 men/2 women), Brazil (2 women), Kuwait (1 man), France (1 man), Azerbaijan, Turkey and Puerto Rico.
And it’s not just the national team — USA Volleyball tracks many players around the world.
In the USA, volleyball had one high-profile league effort in the 1970s, the International Volleyball Association. Andy Crossley has some of the details, understandably focusing on the league’s star player — Wilt Chamberlain. You may have heard something about his basketball career.
Other attempts: Major League Volleyball (late 80s – see video!), Women’s Western Volleyball League (1993-94), U.S. Pro Volleyball (2002). USA Volleyball has also sanctioned a league, Premier Volleyball League, that seems less ambitious.
This history will sound familiar to fans of any women’s sport or niche sport. (In other words, anything other than football, baseball, basketball and hockey.)
Will it work this time? No idea. But it’s just peculiar that Puerto Rico could support a pro volleyball league while Southern California can’t.