The FIVB Volleyball Nations League will have its third edition in 2021 with high expectations for another remarkable event. It comes on the back of a spectacular and highly successful season in 2019, which saw Russia's men and USA's women pick up the gold medals.
Carrying on from the successful 2018 and 2019 competitions, the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Nations League continues in the same format of 12 core teams and 4 challenger teams per gender with each team playing against every other – though in view of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic all matches of both genders will be played within one secure ‘bubble’ in the Italian city of Rimini.
The measures being implemented ensure athletes are able to compete safely while bringing live volleyball action to millions of fans worldwide.
They include frequent testing, strict health and hygiene measures and an array of risk mitigation protocols in order to significantly reduce the risk of virus transmission.
The men's core teams are Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, Serbia and USA. They are complemented by the challenger teams of Australia, Bulgaria and Canada, plus newcomers Slovenia who won the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup and are replacing Portugal who were relegated that same year.
The women's core teams include Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Russia, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey and USA. The challenger teams are Belgium, the Dominican Republic and Poland, plus newly promoted Canada who won the latest FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup to replace Bulgaria who were relegated in 2019.
The 2021 VNL is set to start on 25 May for the women and 28 May for the men with the Preliminary Round completed on 20 June for the women and 23 June for the men.
The top four teams after the completion of the Preliminary Round advance to the semifinals (in a departure from the Final Six format of the previous seasons).
The semifinals of the women’s competition are scheduled for 24 June, with the medals matches following on the next day.
The men’s semifinals are set for 26 June, followed by the final and bronze medal match on 27 June.
Russia beat hosts USA for the men's gold medal in Chicago in 2019, while Poland outplayed Brazil for bronze. In the women’s competition in Nanjing, USA overcame Brazil in the final and hosts China picked up bronze with a win over Turkey.
The whole competition totals 248 matches – 124 per gender. With an identical format for men and women, the Volleyball Nations League promotes equality in volleyball, while also making it simpler and more engaging to follow.
The 2020 FIVB Volleyball Nations League was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.