The international season will begin with the 2022 Volleyball Nations League and provide fans around the world with a great opportunity to see the best men’s and women’s teams in action and enjoy amazing head-to-head clashes between the elite protagonists of the sport, cheering from the stands at venues on four different continents or watching live on Volleyball TV from anywhere on the planet.

The Volleyball Nations League was launched as a new competition in 2018 and ever since has been the annual meeting point for the top teams in the world. And that is definitely set to continue! Reigning Olympic champions USA are back and will aim to extend their winning run in the women's competition. In the men's tournament, Brazil, the top team in the men's world ranking, will defend their title against Olympic champs France and back-to-back world champions Poland.

The list of VNL medallists reads like a who's who of volleyball stars, and that too is set to continue in 2022! Some of the outstanding players in the first three editions of the competition included Olympic champions Earvin Ngapeth of France, Wallace de Souza of Brazil, Maxim Mikhaylov of Russia and world champion Bartosz Kurek of Poland. Meanwhile, the women's competition set the stage for players at the top of their game including Olympic champions Jordan Larson of USA, Zhu Ting of China and stars players like Kim Yeon Koung of Korea and Gabi Guimaraes of Brazil.

This year's edition of the VNL will take place from May 31 to July 24. Following a new and improved competition format, the world’s top 16 national teams in each gender will delight sports lovers with a spectacular global marathon over a 55-day period, and engage them in a practically non-stop volleyball fiesta.

The competition begins with a Preliminary Round to be played over six competition weeks, with women and men taking their turns every other week in racing for the spots in the Finals.

The ladies will be the first to take to the VNL courts for a week of exciting battles split between the Turkish capital Ankara and Shreveport-Bossier City in USA. Two weeks later, they will change continents and play in the Brazilian capital Brasilia and Quezon City in the Philippines, before wrapping up the Preliminary Round in the Canadian city of Calgary and the Bulgarian capital Sofia. The best seven teams in the standings will then join hosts Turkey at the Final Round from July 13 through 17 in Ankara, where the quarterfinals, the semifinals and the medal matches will be played.

The men’s competition will follow the same format, starting on June 7 in Brasilia and the Canadian capital Ottawa, moving to Quezon City and Sofia and finishing the Preliminary Round with pools in Osaka, Japan and Gdansk, Poland. The Finals in Bologna, Italy will be held from July 20 through 24.

Annie Drews

Annie Drews of USA

During the Preliminary Round, each team will play as many as 12 matches, or four games during each competition week, trying to collect wins and points towards the general standings. As the tournament unfolds, some will be engaged in fierce battling for the spots in the quarterfinals, while others will have to fight for survival in the VNL as eventually one team per gender will have to face relegation for the following season.

The new edition of the VNL is not only the first tournament of the season and the last major competition before the FIVB Volleyball World Championships, but also the opening event of the new Olympic cycle, which will culminate at Paris 2024 only two years from now.

With each VNL match carrying an FIVB World Ranking weight factor smaller only than those of the Olympic Games and the World Championships, it will be exciting to follow how each set won or lost will affect the charts. It is interesting to note that the defending champions of the 2021 VNL editions in both genders, USA for women and Brazil for men, are the current World Ranking leaders and will be back in action fighting to maintain their status as the world’s number one teams.

In addition to the Americans, who are also reigning Olympic champions and winners of all three previous editions of the Volleyball Nations League, the women’s line-up for VNL 2022 features the likes of reigning world champions Serbia, Tokyo Olympic silver medallists and South American champions Brazil, European champions Italy, Asian champions Japan, NORCECA and Pan American champions Dominican Republic, VNL Final Four participants in all three previous editions Turkey, Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallists and traditional volleyball power China, as well as the high-calibre teams of Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Korea, the Netherlands, Poland and Thailand.

Led by the world’s number one team of Brazil, who are also reigning VNL and South American champions, the list of participants in the upcoming men’s VNL is no less impressive. Tokyo 2020 Olympic champions France, two-time world champions Poland, European champions Italy, Asian champions Iran, Tokyo 2020 bronze medallists Argentina and traditional North American stronghold USA will be challenged by the top-level selections of Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Serbia and Slovenia.

During the first two seasons, the women’s Finals were organised in Nanjing, China, with the United States claiming the crown in both 2018 and 2019. On the men’s side it was Russia who triumphed with the first two VNL trophies at the Final Rounds in Lille, France in 2018 and in Chicago, USA in 2019.

After the pandemic-prompted cancellation of the 2020 edition, the VNL returned in 2021 with both genders playing the entire competition within a ‘safety bubble’ created in Rimini, Italy. The US ladies defended their title to snatch their third back-to-back VNL gold, while the Brazilian men emerged as first-time winners.

Brazil (two silvers), Turkey (a silver and a bronze) and China (two bronzes) are the other nations to have medalled in the women’s VNL. The men’s teams of France, USA and Poland have also made it to the podium, each with a silver and a bronze to their record.