The first step toward the volleyball world championships for Team USA will be made this weekend.
The American men's and women's national teams enter this weekend's NORCECA qualification tournaments at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center as the favorites.
Both automatically advanced to the third and final round of their respective tournaments based on their regional rankings. The 2014 world championships are in Poland from Aug. 30 to Sept. 21 for the men and in Italy Sept. 23 to Oct. 12 for the women. Both the men's and women's NORCECA champions earn a spot in their world championship tournament.
"Everything we do is, including NORCECA and the World League, is about being ready for the world championships," said men's national team coach John Speraw, adding that the competition will be used to evaluate talent by mid-August when the world championships team is named.
Three players from the 2012 gold medal team will compete, Speraw said. They are David Lee, Reid Priddy and Sean Rooney. One American man with Colorado connections is Parker's Ryan Ammerman, who suffered an undisclosed injury in practice last week and may not compete this weekend.
The American women's team, which has yet to play internationally this year and took home silver in London 2012, is taking much the same approach. High school phenom Hayley Hodson is one of the team's athletes to watch.
The world championships are held every four years in between Olympics, with each of its five zones holding qualifying tournaments into the 24-country event for each gender. NORCECA includes national federations from North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Each of the USA's third-round opponents competed in the second round. Panama and Guatemala won their respective second-round women's pool and Honduras was the third-place team in its group. On the men's side, Guatemala and St. Lucia won their second-round pools and Haiti finished second.
"USA Volleyball is excited to have this opportunity to showcase elite international volleyball at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and working with the Colorado Springs Sports Corp. on putting together a memorable event," USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal said. The national governing body is based in Colorado Springs.