Kevin Durant, Jessica Mendoza help launch pro volleyball league with fantasy-like points system

Kevin Durant, second from right, is part of a group launching three women's sports leagues. (Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant, ESPN analyst and Olympic gold medalist Jessica Mendoza and USWNT World Cup champion Abby Wambach are part of a group helping launch a professional indoor volleyball league in the United States.

They are part of Athletes Unlimited, which in partnership with USA Volleyball announced plans this week for a six-week league that would be the only professional indoor volleyball league in the U.S., per Nancy Armour of USA Today. The league is set to begin in February 2021 in a to-be-determined city in the Southeast. Players will have a say in how its run and there will be no general managers or owners, per the Associated Press. Its scoring system is similar to fantasy sports.

The announcement is in addition to the professional softball league that will begin this summer under Athletes Unlimited’s leadership. A third league in a sport yet to be determined will be launched in 2022.

How does the indoor volleyball league work?

The league will consist of 48 players and the players who have signed on will help determined rules, a change from what happens overseas for volleyball players. Wambach stressed to USA Today how important it was to build athletes as well as leaders for their next careers.

“They’re empowering the athletes,” U.S. star Foluke Akinradewo told the AP. “We get to kind of determine the rules and we have a big say in things. It’s really the opposite of the life we’re living overseas.”

Four captains choose their teams in the first week, then a points system will determine the captains for the following week, per the AP.

There is a payroll of approximately $1 million total, with players guaranteed a minimum of $10,000 for six weeks plus potential bonuses. Players are given a share of the league profits for the next 20 years, per USA Today.

It is the same basic system for the softball league and upcoming 2022 sports league.

What is the fantasy sports-like points system?

Players will be given individual points for “winning” each inning or set, per USA Today. They’ll also get points for their individual statistics, just as in fantasy football. After games, there will be three MVPs — similar to three stars in hockey — and they will get extra points.

The lineups for the teams will change each week since the top four players in the points standings every week will draft their team.

That aspect makes these leagues completely different than the standard sports leagues. It’s also big during the time of COVID-19 when it’s unclear when sports will return and there’s even more confusion over when fans can watch in person again. Or, if they would even want to go.

“We’re going to see everybody trying to (figure out), 'How can we now engage fans when there are no fans in the stands?’ When we’re not allowed to have the normal way of playing sports and watching sports, how do we still keep that interest going?” Mendoza said, via USA Today.

“Athletes Unlimited’s focus was always on fans who aren’t necessarily there. It’s to reach a broader view of people who are nowhere near where the venue is, and watch and participate from afar,” she added. “It’s already in place.”

Volleyball is one of the more popular sports worldwide and a different approach to the game might be able to bring in more viewers, especially in the aftermath of a time when fans went without sports. That it’s led by pioneering athletes who are letting the league’s participants be involved in the decision making is more reason to believe it might stick.

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