The action-packed Hockey World League is renowned for giving every hockey-playing nation on earth a direct route to qualifying for the biggest international events.

In the first edition of the mammoth two year, four round competition, the chance to compete at the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup in The Hague was on the line, with six men’s and six women’s teams achieving qualification for that event thanks to heroic performances in the HWL. This time around, the League provides a direct qualification route to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

So, what do the teams need to do in order to progress through the rounds and keep alive hopes of making their mark in “The Greatest Show On Earth”?

Round 2

As well as featuring all of the teams that battled to qualification from the numerous Round 1 events, Round 2 introduces the nations that were placed 12-19 in the FIH World Rankings at the time of seeking entries to the competition. Round 2 of both the men’s and women’s competitions consists of three eight-team events.

In the men’s competition, there are nine qualification places available for the Semi-Finals, with the top three finishers at each of the tournaments in Singapore (SIN), San Diego (USA) and Cape Town (RSA) all being certain to compete in the next phase. Malaysia, Poland and Japan all qualified for the Semi-Finals thanks to top three finishes at the event in Singapore earlier this year.

The women’s competition is slightly different, with seven qualification places available for the Semi-Finals from the events in Montevideo (URU), New Delhi (IND) and Dublin (IRL). The reason for seven rather nine qualifiers is because both Spain and Belgium, two nations ranked between 12-19 at the time of seeking entries, are hosting Semi-Final tournaments later this year and have therefore already qualified. The top two finishers from Montevideo, New Delhi and Dublin are certain to qualify for the Semi-Finals, being joined by the highest ranked of the third placed finishers from those three events.  Italy and Uruguay recently confirmed their places in the Semi-Finals with a top two finish at the event in Montevideo, while Azerbaijan face a nervous wait until the end of the Round 2 events before knowing if they are the highest ranked of the third placed finishers.

Semi-Finals (Round 3)

The Semi-Final phase really is the business end of the Hockey World League, where those coveted places at the Rio 2016 Olympics are on the table and completely up for grabs. The Semi-Finals of both the men’s and women’s competitions consists of two ten team events, with the top three finishers at each event winning a ticket to Rio 2016. The nine men’s and seven women’s qualifiers from Round 2 will be joined by hockey’s “big beasts”, with the teams ranked from 1-11 at the time of seeking entries all entering the fray. The Semi-Final events will take place in Argentina (Men: 3-14 June 2015) and Spain (Women: 10-21 June 2015), with Belgium playing host to a spectacular joint men’s and women’s event from 21 June to 5 July 2015.

Finals (Round 4)

The HWL Finals tournaments are the showpiece events where the tournament trophies are on the line and will mark the end of a journey that began in June 2014. The women’s competition will take place in Argentina while India will play host to the men’s event, with the winning teams being rewarded with a places at the elite FIH Champions Trophy tournaments in 2016. The respective host nations of the HWL Finals will be joined in the eight-team events by the three highest finishers from each of the Hockey World League Semi-Final competitions plus the higher ranked of the fourth place finishers.

European Champions Route

The EHF would like to also remind teams that the Champion of the EuroHockey Championships has direct passage Rio in 2016. Again, not an easy route, but we have always been proud of our European Champions at Olympic Games. There is no doubt that the Road to Rio is not an easy path to tread, but the dream competing at the greatest sporting spectacle on the planet has the potential to drive all of the competing teams onto greatness. It promises to be a fascinating journey.

Source material: FIH.CH

Photograph: Current Men’s European and Olympic Champions, Germany. (EHF/Frank Uijlenbroek (c))