Fecha de publicación: 
28 May 2019
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Sixteen of the world's top volleyball national teams are on the starting line this week, as the second edition of the FIVB Men's Volleyball Nations League begins its marathon journey around the world, to culminate more than a month later in Chicago, after 130 matches across 20 host cities.

And indeed it all starts on Friday the way it ended last July: With a rematch of the 2018 final in Lille (where Russia swept hosts France 3-0) when the two superpowers meet in Novi Sad, Serbia.

It's the volleyball extravaganza that sets the tone in this pre-Olympic year that also includes qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the 2019 FIVB Volleyball World Cup plus a host of continental and regional competitions.

Polish fans at Katowice's iconic Spodek Arena will once again witness some amazing VNL action on the opening weekend of this year's edition.

When & Where:
• Pool play (120 matches): May 31 to June 30 in 20 host cities
• Final Six (10 matches): July 10-14 in Chicago, USA

• Core Teams: Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, Serbia and USA.
• Challenger Teams: Australia, Bulgaria, Canada and Portugal.

The top five teams after pool play plus hosts USA will compete in the Final Six of the 2019 VNL.

The bottom-ranked amongst the Challenger Teams after pool play will be relegated, to be replaced for the 2020 VNL by the winner of the 2019 FIVB Challenger Cup.

There's a total of 120 matches in pool play, starting on May 31, but amongst those there's some very special ones, worth taking the time to follow.

Matches to watch out for, week-by-week:

• Week 1 - Brazil v Poland on June 2 in Katowice:
A rematch of both previous FIVB Volleyball World Championships finals (in fact at the very same venue of the 2014 one) - always a point of reference in the ongoing rivalry between the two sides. The reigning world champions up against the reigning Olympic champions.
• Week 2 - Russia v USA on June 8 in Ningbo:
Any Russia v USA encounter is huge. The defending VNL champions are up against last year's bronze medallists and host of the this year's finals.
• Week 3 - Iran v Poland on June 15 in Urmia:
Iran and Poland renew their continuing intense rivalry - though a lot will depend on how desperate each side will be for points at this mid-way point of the VNL Preliminary Round. To that, add the always passionate support from the Iranian fans.
• Week 4 - Italy v Serbia on June 21 in Milan:

A new episode in the long-running rivalry and ties between the two sides - not least because of the number of Serbian players in the Italian League.
• Week 5 - Brazil v Italy on June 20 in Ningbo:

A rematch of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games final which saw the South Americans victorious after four sets. This season it pits the oldest on average against the youngest on average teams in the VNL. An interesting point of reference in the eternal youth versus experience question.

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