COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Oct. 23, 2018) – The U.S. Women’s National Team will face a daunting travel schedule in defending its FIVB Volleyball Nations League title and to start the 2019 international competition season.

The VNL, with a $1 million top prize for the winner, is the highest profile annual international volleyball tournament. The VNL begins with a five-week preliminary round involving round-robin action for the 16-team field. Each preliminary round week includes four pools of four teams playing a round-robin schedule.

Team USA opens the 2019 VNL May 21-23 in Bulgaria, where it will face the hosts, Japan and Belgium. The Americans stay in Europe the second week when they face the top two teams from the recently completed FIVB World Championship. USA, along with World Championship Serbia and Dominican Republic compete May 28-30 in Italy, the World Champion runner-up.

In their only hosting week, the U.S. Women will challenge Brazil, Korea and Germany June 4-6 at a site to be announced later this fall. After its brief time back in the United States, Team USA travels to China where it will face the World Championship bronze medalist and reigning Olympic Games champion Chinese team along with Poland and 2018 VNL runner-up Turkey from June 11-13. The U.S. returns to Europe for the final VNL preliminary week as Russia hosts the Americans, Thailand and Netherlands.

The VNL Final Six will be staged July 3-7 in China as the top five teams in the preliminary round join host China.

The Americans won the inaugural VNL in 2018 by going 17-2 overall, which included a 10-match win streak during the preliminary round that largely secured its spot into the Final Six held in Nanjing, China. The U.S. defeated Turkey and Serbia in the Final Six pool play, then downed China in the semifinals. Team USA rallied to defeat Turkey in a five-set thriller in the gold-medal match to win the $1 million top prize.

All but one of the 16 competing nations will host at least one preliminary round of the VNL in 2019. Countries hosting multiple preliminary weekends are China (four), Italy (two) and Turkey (two).

After the VNL, the U.S. will play in the Intercontinental Olympic Qualification Tournaments (IOWT). The event will have the top 24 ranked teams spread over six pools of four teams playing a round-robin format in August 2019. Pool composition will be based on the FIVB world ranking as of Jan. 1, 2019, placing not-yet qualified teams into each pool using the serpentine system. The highest finishing team in each pool will earn one quota place for its country into the Olympic Games.

Other major 2019 tournaments on the U.S. Women’s schedule include the FIVB World Cup in September, the Pan American Games held July 26 to Aug. 11 in Lima, Peru, and the Pan American Cup (date and location to be announced).

2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League Schedule

Week 1: May 21-23
Pool 1: Poland – Host, Italy, Thailand, Germany
Pool 2: Bulgaria – Host, Japan, Belgium, USA
Pool 3: Brazil – Host, Dominican Republic, Russia, China
Pool 4: Serbia – Host, Netherlands, Turkey, Korea

Week 2: May 28-30
Pool 5: Italy – Host, USA, Dominican Republic, Serbia
Pool 6: Turkey – Host, Germany, Russia, Japan
Pool 7: China – Host, Belgium, Thailand, Korea
Pool 8: Netherlands – Host, Brazil, Poland, Bulgaria

Week 3: June 4-6
Pool 9: China – Host, Italy, Japan, Netherlands
Pool 10: USA – Host, Korea, Germany, Brazil
Pool 11: Thailand – Host, Bulgaria, Dominican Republic, Turkey
Pool 12: Belgium – Host, Serbia, Russia, Poland

Week 4: June 11-13
Pool 13: Italy – Host, Korea, Bulgaria, Russia
Pool 14: Germany – Host, Belgium, Netherlands, Dominican Republic
Pool 15: Japan – Host, Serbia, Thailand, Brazil
Pool 16: China – Host, USA, Poland, Turkey

Week 5: June 18-20
Pool 17: Turkey – Host, Belgium, Italy, Brazil
Pool 18: China – Host, Germany, Bulgaria, Serbia
Pool 19: Russia – Host, Thailand, Netherlands, USA
Pool 20: Korea – Host, Japan, Poland, Dominican Republic