VOLLEYBALL: U.S. men host FIVB Nations League Final in Chicago, but Brazil is favored

U.S. Outside Hitter Thomas Jaeschke in action vs. Japan in round-robin play (Photo: FIVB)

The U.S. men’s National Team had a modest 9-6 record in the round-robin portion of the 2019 FIVB men’s Nations League, finishing in sixth place. That was the last spot which qualified to advance to the Nations League Finals, but the American squad wasn’t worried.

They were in the final round from the start, as the host of the six-team playoffs at the 6,115-seat Credit Union 1 Arena at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The competition begins on Wednesday, with play in two pools of three. The top two teams from each pool advance to the semifinals:

Pool A: United States (9-6), Russia (12-3), France (11-4)

Pool B: Brazil (14-1), Iran (12-3), Poland (11-4).

Pool matches will be played on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The Brazilians are 5-0 against the rest of this field, having lost only to Serbia during the round-robin. What about the U.S.? The Americans beat France, but lost to Russia during the round-robin, and lost to Brazil and Poland from Pool B, but did defeat Iran.

Outside Hitter Thomas Jaeschke of the U.S., who has recovered from a leg injury suffered early in the season, is from Chicago and said, “It’ll be interesting because I don’t remember if we have ever hosted the finals of a big volleyball tournament, besides the Olympics. It’ll be really, really fun.

“It will be interesting to see the crowd, because Poland qualified and Chicago has one of the biggest Polish populations in the world, after Warsaw. Iran also travels really well and there are a lot of Iranians in Chicago I believe. It will be interesting to see how we feel, because when we play against Poland around Chicago it feels like an away match, with 10 thousand Polish people cheering and singing the Polish national anthem. So we’re like, ‘we’re in Chicago, right?’”

The house should be full, as the U.S. played before an average of nearly 5,000 fans earlier this season in nearby Hoffman Estates, Illinois (Sears Center Arena) for its round-robin games vs. Canada, Japan and China.

All four teams that made it to the 2018 Nations League semis are back: Russia (winners), France (second), the U.S. (third) and Brazil (fourth). Three of the four teams from the 2018 FIVB men’s World Championship are back for the Nations League final: Poland (gold), Brazil (silver) and the U.S. (Bronze).

The semis will be on Saturday (13th) and the medal matches on the 14th (Sunday). Look for live scoring and results here.