There have been a lot of changes to international beach volleyball with the introduction of the Beach Pro Tour. One of the most important is the new entry ranking system. It took me a while to get my head wrapped around the new system’s impact, but now its effects are becoming clearer with each tournament. I get asked about how they work every week, so it’s time to take a deep dive into the Beach Pro Tour entry rankings in this Beach Volley Blog explainer.
Why are entry rankings important?
Entry ranking points are important because they determine which tournaments a team can play in. The more entry points a team has the more options they have for tournament entry. Only the top 12 ranked teams in the world are given main draw spots at Elite 16 tournaments and Elite 16s are where the money is.
If you want to earn a living in the sport, you really have to play in the biggest tournaments. The winning team at an Elite 16 gets $30,000 and the average prize for teams finishing 9th or better is $10,833. The Challenge level has a decent payout, too. The winning team takes home $10,000 and the average prize for 9th or better is $4,666. Before you ask your beach volleyball playing friends to lend you some of their prize money, remember all of the prizes are shared between the two players. Success at the Future level doesn’t even cover the travel expenses with the winning team splitting $1000 and the average take for a top 9 finish only $383.
Why does anyone play future tournaments?
While teams almost always lose money by playing in a future tournament, it is the only way to gain points and become eligible for larger events. The Beach Pro Tour has a clever design in the points scheme, so the disparity in entry points at the different levels is much smaller than the prize money disparity. While the winner of an Elite 16 earns 30 times more money than a Future level winner($30,000 vs $1000) , they only get get 3 times the entry points (1200 vs 400). This creates opportunities for teams to climb the ladder and get a shot at the big money events.
Americans Taryn Kloth & Kristen Nuss are the first team to ride the entry rankings escalator to the top floor. They started their international careers this year at a Future tournament in Coolangatta, Australia with zero entry points. They won that event and qualified to play in a challenge event in Itapema where they finished 9th. That allowed them to play in the Kusadasi where they won and earned enough points to play in their first Elite 16. Their fifth place finish in Jurmala has them solidly placed to continue competing at the highest level.
How do teams earn points?
Teams earn points by playing in the ‘main draw’ of a tournament. Each level of the tournament has a certain amount of main draw places and the rest are fought over in the qualifiers. Elite 16 and Future tournaments are quite small. There are only 12 guaranteed main draw places at either of them. 16 qualifier teams have to win two matches to become one of four lucky teams to advance into the main draw. Challenge tournaments are larger, with 16 guaranteed main draw teams and 32 qualifiers. Failure in a qualifier means no prize money. That is $0 to offset all the tournament expenses. Perhaps worse than that, qualifier failure means a very small number of points for the effort, which quickly brings the entry ranking total down.
But winning qualifiers can lead to immediate success. Raïsa Schoon & Katja Stam and Cinja Tillmann & Svenja Müller won Elite 16 tournaments while starting in the qualifiers.
The following table shows the points available at each type of tournament.
How are entry ranking points calculated?
A team’s entry ranking points are the sum of each players entry points. Just like prize money is shared, tournament points are shared, too. That means if there is a partner switch, the new team doesn’t have to start from zero. Each player brings their points into a new partnership.
Player points include their best three results from tournaments counting back four Beach Pro Tour events. Only tournaments from the last year count. When the Beach Pro Tour released the entry rankings system, they said rankings would be based on the best three of the most recent four tournaments, but this isn’t always the case.
The subtle difference from the common understanding is that a player counts back four Beach Pro Tour or World Tour tournaments and every tournament that they have played in since that fourth tournament counts in their entry ranking. That can include other FIVB sanctioned tournaments that fall within this time frame. It’s a tricky concept but if a player competed in a continental championships after their fourth oldest international tour event, the continental championships counts too.
The Beachvolley Vikings example
You can see this today by looking at Anders Mol and Christian Sorum. For them, four Beach Pro Tour or World Tour tournaments ago was Gstaad in July of 2021. Since the European Championships were in August, they get to include their Euro triumph in their Entry Rankings, too. For Mol and Sorum and other teams like them, they actually get to count the best three of five tournaments. In their case, Gstaad, Euros, Rosarito, Ostrava and Jurmala.
In a few weeks, when the world championships end, the Norwegians will add another tournament inside their most recent four Beach Pro Tour events. They will have six tournaments to draw their entry rankings from.
The table below shows the tournaments Mol and Sorum would have had in their rankings if they had played in Tlexcala (left columns), their current ranking tournaments (middle columns) and the tournaments they will count from after the World Championships (right columns).
Mol and Sorum aren’t the only team hanging on to Gstaad points. Stefan Boermans & Yorick de Groot won Gstaad and their light schedule in 2022 means they still benefit. When they play their next tour event, they’ll lose the Gstaad points and their European Championship points at the same time.
World Championship double bonus
All teams that play in the World Championships get the benefit of playing in a tournament that awards more points than an Elite 16. But that isn’t all, they will also have a chance to draw on their best 3 of 5 tournaments instead of their best 3 of 4 for months to come. That is a huge advantage over teams not playing in the world championships.
Players that haven’t played in four Beach Pro Tour or World Tour tournaments in the last year count their top three results from any type of tournaments in the last year. This can be from continental tours or some country’s domestic tours.
What about playing in home tournaments?
Future tournaments and 1 star tournaments played in a home country only count if they improve a team’s ranking. Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera played in the Madrid Future tournament, but obviously they aren’t a future team. Herrera played his first FIVB senior tournament in 2001 and Gavira was the 2008 FIVB rookie of the year. Not exactly the type of tournament the Future level was designed for. In any other country Herrera and Gavira wouldn’t have dreamt of playing a Future event. However, this rule allowed them to support their local federation’s efforts to grow the game, have a good time playing in front of Spanish fans and not worry about it hurting their rankings. Promoters of smaller events can get a lot more fans into the stands if Olympic heroes are playing, so it is a good rule to grow interest in the sport.
What is an entry deadline?
Each tournament has a registration deadline 28 days before it starts. On deadline day teams are placed into the main draw, the qualifiers or the reserve list based on their entry ranking points.
What are seeding points?
While entry ranking points determine which list (main draw, qualifier or reserve) a team is in, the order within those lists based on seeding points. Seeding points and entry ranking points are identical, the difference is when they are applied. In most cases, seeding takes place the day before the tournament starts. That means recent tournament results impact seeds in a tournament, but can’t move teams from list to list. A team on the qualification list could win three events in the 28 days before a tournament and have more seeding points than any main draw team, but still have to play in the qualification tournament. They would be the top seed in the qualifiers though.
I highlighted the word most above because this next part has caused a lot of confusion for fans. For the Elite 16 main draw, seeding points are assigned on deadline day. In other words, recent results won’t shift main draw team’s seeding at all. Pools are set a month before the tournament starts. So if an Elite 16 deadline were to pass before the end of the World Championships (one doesn’t) then Rebecca & Talita and Ahmed & Cherif would be the top seeds for that event. They’ll have to outperform their rivals in Rome because the next Elite 16 deadline passes for Hamburg on July 6th. This only applies to the main draw, Elite 16 qualifiers are seeded the day before the tournament starts.
Do entry rankings change frequently?
It doesn’t take long for teams to play four tournaments and have an old result removed. Just last week Raïsa Schoon & Katja Stam lost credit for their huge win in Rosarito. The young Dutch pair were ranked number one largely because of their win in Mexico and even a strong fifth place finish in Jurmala saw them drop seven positions in the rankings. Kristen Nuss & Taryn Kloth started the year with no points, making them something like 225th in the entry rankings. Four very successful tournaments later and they are up to 12th.
The new system of only counting three from four (with the exceptions mentioned above) makes the rankings very fluid. In the star system, four tournaments out of six were counted. That meant that teams could have two bad tournaments without any consequences. They would also benefit from one great result six tournaments later. This year teams don’t have nearly as firm of a grasp on their position. A couple of early exits from a qualifier can send teams down in a hurry.
Additionally, the fact that Future tournaments are generous with the points means teams can rise from the lower rankings much more quickly. Quentin Métral & Yves Haussener started the season losing three straight Challenger qualifiers. They found themselves outside of the qualifiers at even the Challenge level, so they signed up for some Future tournaments. Métral & Haussener got their mojo back in a hurry, winning two tournaments in a row. They started the season ranked 38th, fell all the way to 69th and have fought all the way back to 37th based on their Future level success.
What is the best place to follow entry rankings?
The Beach Volley Blog’s men’s and women’s entry rankings are by far the best source. Of course I’m biased, but I’m proud of these tables and there are several reasons why. After you read this, please check them out and decide for yourself.
Only active teams
Most importantly, my tables only include teams that are active in 2022. If you go on the other ranking table sources, they list all kinds of teams that are irrelevant today. If Ana Patricia and Rebecca decided to enter a tournament, they’d be tied for the top spot in entry points, but guess what, they aren’t going to enter any tournaments together this year. My rankings only include current teams so you can see exactly where your favorite team stands. The color coding shows teams that will enter directly into an Elite 16 Main Draw (green), Elite 16 Qualifier (blue) and a Challenge tournament (grey). Of course, not all top teams enter Challenge tournaments, so the list goes deeper, but it gives you a safety zone for the teams you support.
Change of rank and future impact
Another reason the Beach Volley Blog tables are the best source is that they show the impact of recent tournaments, by showing how much teams rose or fell in the rankings. They also give you a glimpse of what is at stake in upcoming tournaments. In some cases, when a team counts back four tournaments, that fourth tournament was an awful result. For teams like that, even a poor result in the next tournament won’t impact them. In other cases four tournaments ago could be a top result. For them, they have to match that result or they will drop in the rankings. The columns on the far right show what teams must do to maintain and improve their entry ranking points.
The men’s and women’s entry rankings on the Beach Volley Blog are updated within an hour of a tournaments completion. No need to wait until Monday in Switzerland to see the new ranking, just visit the Beach Volley Blog for the unofficial but accurate rankings.
You are the expert now
If you read this far, I’m pretty sure you now know more about Beach Pro Tour entry rankings than any of your friends. With the fluid nature of entry rankings in the new system and their huge importance for a team’s success, make sure you bookmark the Beach Volley Blog’s entry ranking tables and visit them every week.