Final 100-day countdown begins for 2019 VNL
Triple USA block takes on Meliha Ismailoglu of Turkey as she spikes the ball during the VNL final in Nanjing, China, on July 1, 2018.
Defending champions USA get started in Bulgaria from May 21-23, when the newly-promoted hosts also entertain Japan and Belgium.
Meanwhile, reigning world champions Serbia play at home against the Netherlands, Turkey and Korea, while Rio 2016 Olympic champions China are in Brazil alongside the Dominican Republic and Russia for the opening week.
China's Hu Mingyuan gets the ball past the Brazilian block of Amanda Francisco in last year's VNL bronze medal match at Nanjing. The two sides clash again on the opening week of the 2019 edition.
China are also hosts of the Final Six for the second year running. This year's finals are from July 3 to 7.
Poland host the remaining pool of Week 1, with Italy, Thailand and Germany.
Carrying on from last year’s successful competition, the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League continues on the same format of 12 core teams and 4 challenger teams per gender.
The women's core teams include Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Russia, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey and USA. The challenger teams are Belgium, the Dominican Republic and Poland, plus Bulgaria who won last year's Challenger Cup to replace Argentina who were relegated in 2018.
The Preliminary Round of the competition sees all teams play against each other over five weeks with the women competing mid-week.
Kelsey Robinson takes a selfie with the whole USA team to celebrate their gold medal at the inaugural 2018 VNL.
The top five teams at the end of the Preliminary Round join the hosts of the Finals to fight for the ultimate prize. The last amongst the Challenger teams is relegated to be replaced for 2020 by the winners of this year's FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup.
Last year in Nanjing, USA overcame Turkey in the final of the VNL and hosts China picked up bronze with a win over Brazil.
The 2019 Men's FIVB VNL begins a little later, with the first weekend of play set for 31 May - 2 June.
The VNL marks the beginning of a thrilling pre-Olympic FIVB season, which also includes Olympic Qualifiers, Age-Group World Championships, and the FIVB Volleyball World Cup.
Quick links - Volleyball:
FIVB.com - Volleyball Nations League
FIVB.com - Volleyball
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