Seven water polo-loving cities – Athens (GRE), Berlin (GER), Long Beach (USA), Los Angeles (USA), Podgorica (MNE), Rotterdam (NED), Zagreb (CRO) – have been awarded hosting rights to the upcoming World Aquatics Water Polo World Cup 2023 season that will see the men’s and women’s tournament finals both take place in Southern California.
With one month until the water polo national team play gets underway, host cities for the opening tournaments and Super Finals of the Men’s and Women’s World Aquatics Water Polo World Cup 2023 are now set:
World Aquatics Men's Water Polo World Cup 2023
30 June-2 July
World Aquatics Women's Water Polo World Cup 2023
First-time Super Final victors Italy and Spain Look to Repeat as Champions in 2023
With the host cities confirmed, the waters and teams the Italian men and Spanish women must navigate to defend their 2022 global titles are now known for the upcoming season.
The Italian men come in looking to recreate their magical 2022 season that saw them not only win their first-ever Water Polo World Cup title by downing the United States 13-9 in last year’s final but also played in the World Aquatics Championships gold medal game.
The Spanish women did what no other team over the past decade could do – replace the United States atop a World Cup, World Championship or Olympic medal podium – in taking their first-ever World Cup title in the home waters of Santa Cruz de Tenerife last year.
It must be something about playing at home: the Spanish women won their lone World Aquatics Championship also in their home pool when Barcelona hosted that event in 2013.
Surf, Sun & Water Polo | Water Polo World Cup Final Arrives in Southern California
With World Cup gold the crowning annual glory for national team water polo play, defending champions Italy and Spain – just like every other team – will need to earn their spot in the men’s and women’s tournaments that both culminate in the USA’s most hallowed water polo grounds: the greater Los Angeles County, California area.
The Women’s Water Polo World Cup Final will take place in Long Beach, California at Long Beach City College. The setting couldn’t be better: Long Beach is where the men’s and women’s Olympic Water Polo Tournaments are set to take place alongside five other sports for the #LA28 Games. The Long Beach area has it all, blending the urban sophistication of a big city with the relaxed atmosphere of a beach resort.
The Men’s Water Polo World Cup Final will take place in the heart of Los Angeles on the University of Southern California campus. Water polo holds a special place on campus as USC student-athletes have won 17 national university water polo championships (NCAA) and is a talent pipeline for national water polo teams.
Look for a focused and motivated Team USA to factor prominently in both the men’s and women’s final standings. The American men are a team on the rise, having played in the last two gold medal matches of the tournament (losing 13-9 to Italy in 2022 and 9-8 to Montenegro in 2020) but still searching for their first World Cup gold.
The Team USA women, meanwhile, look to return to the undisputed top spot in the game. After winning three consecutive Olympics, four World Aquatics Championships and six consecutive Women’s Water Polo Super Final crowns over the last decade, the Americans placed third in last year’s World Cup – the lone blemish to their run of unprecedented excellence.
USA Water Polo CEO Christopher Ramsey expressed his excitement about both the men’s and women’s finals being hosted in Southern California.
"Holding the inaugural World Cup Super Finals in Los Angeles and Long Beach in advance of the LA28 Olympic Games is exciting for us," said Ramsey. "Water polo has always had a special relationship with Southern California, which boasts the greatest concentration of water polo athletes in the nation, and being able to share the greatest athletes in our sport from around the world with our fan base here should give everyone a little taste of what's to come in 2028. We are grateful to World Aquatics for this opportunity and we look forward to hosting two truly memorable competitions."
Host City Event Legacies
All seven of the host cities featured in the Men’s and Women’s Water Polo World Cup 2023 season add to their water polo event legacies this season.
Athens has held both the men’s and women’s Super Final before, along with the Olympic Games Water Polo Tournament.
Berlin held both the men’s Super Final and the Water Polo World Cup previously, along with the Olympic Water Polo Tournament during the 1936 Games when only men competed on the sport's Olympic stage.
Podgorica most recently held the European final in 2022, in addition to the Men’s Youth Water Polo Championships in 2016 and the World Cup Final in 2009.
Men’s teams looking to earn a final spot in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics played in the Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Rotterdam while Zagreb held the Europa Cup Men’s Final in 2019.
Los Angeles and Long Beach have a long history hosting top water polo competitions, including the Men’s Olympic Water Polo Tournaments in 1932 and 1984, the Men’s and Women’s Water Polo World Cup finals in 2004 and the Men’s Junior Water Polo Championships in 2007.
Water Polo World Cup Competition System | How the 2023 Season Will Play Out
Men’s Water Polo World Cup 2023 Competition System
The men’s season-long tournament sees 12 teams divided into two groups – A and B – following the World Cup draw that took place last December in Budapest, Hungary.
Group A: Italy, Japan, Croatia, Hungary, France, United States of America
Group B: Serbia, Greece, Georgia, Australia, Spain, Montenegro
The men’s tournament gets underway from 8-14 March, with teams each playing one match against each other in the round-robin format. Croatia will host Group A in Zagreb while Montenegro will hold the Group B matches in Podgorica.
The top three teams from both Groups A and B will qualify for the World Cup finals in Los Angeles (USA).
Each match will be scored on a 3-2-1-0 basis. Winning in regular time earns a team 3 points; winning in a penalty shootout earns a team 2 points; a loss in a penalty shootout scores a team 1 point; a loss in regular time earns zero points for a team.
All matches will be played until there’s a winner. If a game ends regulation time in a tie, a penalty shootout with five players alternating shots against the opposing goalkeeper from the penalty mark ensues. The two teams alternate shots on opposing goals and each shot must be taken by a different player.
If, after five penalties the score is still tied, the shootout enters sudden death. The penalties continue through one back-and-forth at a time in the original order of the shooters. The first team to have an advantage after a round between both teams wins.
If two teams are tied at the end of the five-game tournament, World Aquatics World Cup rules apply to determine the final ranking order.
Women’s Water Polo World Cup 2023 Competition System
The women’s competition system differs slightly as eight teams play in two groups:
Group A: Greece, Netherlands, Hungary, Australia
Group B: Spain, United States of America, Italy, China
The first round of women’s tournaments will take place from 11-13 April in Rotterdam (NED), followed by the second round in Athens (GRE) from 19-21 April.
The first tournament follows the round-robin format with each team playing three matches against their group opponents. Following the same match-scoring methodology as the men, the top two teams in both Group A and B will place for the top four positions in the second tournament in Athens.
With six teams qualifying for the Women’s World Cup final, the top four teams from the first tournament phase will have guaranteed their teams a place in the Los Angeles phase of the tournament. However, the Athens results matter as a team’s final standings out of phase two of the tournament determine their seeding for the three-day final in Southern California.
For the teams that finish third and fourth in the first tournament round in Rotterdam, here’s where things get interesting: these four teams will be battling it out in the second tournament phase for the final two spots in the World Cup final. The event in Athens once again follows the three-match round-robin style, only teams play the bottom-half ranked opponents from the opening phase of the tournament. The two top teams from this tier of teams also will qualify to play in Long Beach (USA), qualifying for the final tournament phase as the fifth and sixth-seeded teams.
Water Polo World Cup Tournament History
Formerly known as the FINA Water Polo World League, the annual international water polo tournament for national teams began in 2002 for men and in 2004 for women.
Serbia leads the all-time nations list with 10 titles, it's last coming in 2019 during a home final in Belgrade. Italy comes in as the aforementioned defending champion, while Montenegro won the tournament in 2020. Due to the global pandemic, no Water Polo World Cup season was played in 2021.
In the women’s tournament, the United States won the event’s first edition in Long Beach (USA) in 2004 and with the tournament headed back to the same place this year, the Americans will be going for their record-extending 15th Women’s Water Polo World Cup gold. Four other teams have won the women’s tournament: Greece (2005), Russia (2008), China (2013), and Spain (2022).