Innovation is the key as the two-division format debuts at the senior WP Europeans

After successful tests at age-group events, the new playing format for LEN major events makes its debut at senior level next January at the European Water Polo Championships – Israel 2024. Netanya will witness the first edition featuring two divisions – LEN Vice-President Kyriakos Giannopoulos says this new approach will be a tremendous boost to the appeal of the competitions.

Dividing the field into two divisions was first tested at the recent Men’s U20 World Championships in Bucharest. “It worked perfectly” said LEN Vice-President and World Aquatics Bureau Member Kyriakos Giannopoulos who acts as Water Polo Liaison in both governing bodies.

“By introducing this format, we wanted to avoid having matches ending in huge goal differences, rather give the opportunity to each team to play until the end of the tournament and to face rivals of the same level. This ensures much better conditions for all players to develop and to enjoy water polo even more” the Vice-President added.

In Bucharest, most of the matches produced thrilling contests, and even this new format offers a chance for the second division teams to challenge those in the top class. After the preliminaries the best sides from the lower house clash with the those ranked lower in the top division.

“To challenge and to believe, this is the most important factor in sport. That you have the chance to make it,” Mr Giannopoulos explained.

Istvan Derencsenyi/LEN

The two-division format will be used at the European Water Polo Championships too – for the first time in January 2024 in Netanya, Israel. “Before we took this crucial decision, we discussed it with the coaches and athletes, not only inside the technical committee” the Vice-President said. “It is very important to listen to the people who are part of the game. First, the players and the coaches, then the referees and TV and media representatives, alongside with the technical committee members and the persons in charge of running the discipline on behalf of the LEN Bureau. All stakeholders were very supportive to implement this new idea. We really tried to come up with the best solution, the best outcome and I’m convinced that this is another step to make water polo stronger. The value of the competition shall increase significantly.”

This also means that the upcoming qualification tournaments, starting this Friday, will determine the list of teams playing in Division II in Netanya, including a strong ‘future’ challenger, Serbia (see below).

Heading to Israel: 15 spots are up for grabs.

Seventeen spots are already taken, the remaining fifteen are to be filled this weekend when the qualification tournaments for the 2024 European Water Polo Championships take place at eight venues. Seven male and eight female teams can go through.

Seven spots are to be filled in the men’s qualification tournaments for the 2024 Europeans as host Israel have been added to the eight already qualified sides (teams finished 1-8th last September). It means that the four group-winners and the three best second-ranked teams will advance to the final tournament (based on the points gained, and in case of equality, the goal-difference will determine who can play in Israel in 2024).

Group C includes a barely seen participant, the Olympic title-holder Serbian team, which failed to reach the best eight in Split in 2022. They must play for a championship berth. In that respect, Slovakia and Türkiye may be considered the unluckiest entrants, as they must face the top team and, most probably, only one of them will make the cut for January 2024.

In the other groups, Netherlands plays at home and should have no issues to qualify, while the Germans should also feel comfortable in Malta. The biggest battles should come when the Turks take on the Slovaks and when Romania clash with the host Slovenia.

As for the women’s competition, Israel managed to make the top eight, and for the first time ever, 16 teams will play for the women’s title. Those sides playing in Split, Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, and Germany are leading favourites, while games played for the remaining four spots should offer some thrilling moments.

Follow all the action on our website:

2024 European Water Polo Championships, Qualifications – 23-25 June


Group A (in Netherlands): Netherlands, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal

Group B (in Malta): Germany, Malta, Ukraine, Bulgaria

Group C (in Turkiye): Serbia, Slovakia, Turkiye, Great Britain

Group D (host Slovenia): Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, Finland

Group winners and the three best ranked teams shall qualify.

Qualified teams for the Championships in Netanya (3-16 January), to play in Division I:

Croatia, Hungary, Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Montenegro, Georgia

Organiser (to play in Division II): Israel


Group A (in Bulgaria): Slovakia, Malta, Bulgaria

Group B (in Romania): Romania, Switzerland, Turkiye, Sweden

Group C (in Serbia): Serbia, Ukraine, Czech Republic

Group D (in Portugal): Germany, Portugal, Finland, Great Britain

The top two ranked teams from each group shall qualify.

Qualified teams for the Championships in Netanya (3-16 January), to play in Division I:

Spain, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Hungary, Israel, France, Croatia