07_BPT Tlaxcala - BRAvsBRA

Olympic champion Bruno Schmidt and partner Saymon are one of ten Brazilian teams set to compete in the qualifier

After a two-week break, the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour returns to action on Thursday, with some of the best beach volleyball players on the planet heading to the Brazilian city of Itapema for the second Challenge tournament in the tour's inaugural season.

With four courts set up for the event at the Meia Praia Beach, teams will battle in Itapema for four consecutive days between Thursday and Sunday. The winners in each gender will take 800 ranking points and a share of the USD 75,000 prize money per gender.

· Watch all the matches at the Itapema Challenge live or on demand on Volleyball TV.

The action starts on Thursday with the qualifier, when 28 men's and 25 women's teams from 21 different countries will be vying for eight main draw spots in each gender. The presence of some heavyweights of international beach volleyball, including nine players who competed at last year's Tokyo Olympics, will guarantee a high level of play from the very first day in Itapema.

The event at the Meia Praia Beach will provide host country Brazil with an unprecedented opportunity in international beach volleyball. With the Beach Pro Tour not limiting the number of teams a country can have in the main draw, unlike the FIVB World Tour, the South Americans could dominate the dispute for medals in Itapema.

Brazil currently have four men's and six women's teams automatically seeded in the main draw and with another six male and four female duos set to play in the qualifier, they could have as many as 20 teams hitting the court on Friday, when the decisive phase of the tournament begins in Itapema.

02_BPT Tlaxcala - SWEvsBRA Centre Court

Pedro and Arthur will try to advance from the qualifier in a second-straight event

Among the home teams which are most likely to advance from the qualifier are the ones of Rio 2016 Olympic champion Bruno Schmidt and partner Saymon Barbosa and of Rio 2016 Olympian Pedro Solberg and teammate Arthur Lanci. Ranked second and third in the Itapema qualifier, both teams had success in the same stage of the tournament at the Tlaxcala Challenge, in March, before finishing ninth.

South American neighbours Chile also have two men's teams well positioned to advance from the Itapema qualifier. Top-seeded Vicente Droguett and Noe Aravena were the sensations of the Tlaxcala event, starting the tournament in the qualifier and ending it on the podium with a second-place finish. Cousins Marco and Esteban Grimalt are one of the most experienced teams in the field, having competed together at both the Rio 2016 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Three other players who featured in Tokyo last year will try to make it to the main draw with new partners - Argentinean Nicolas Capogrosso, who now plays with his younger brother Tomas, Swiss Adrian Heidrich, who joined forces with Leo Dillier this season, and Latvian Edgars Tocs, who switched partners from veteran Martins Plavins to 17-year-old Kristians Fokerots after making it to the Olympic semifinals in Japan.

On the women's side, Europe has the three highest-ranked teams in the qualifier. The top two spots are occupied by Swiss pair Zoe Verge-Depre and Esmee Bobner and Germans Chantal Laboureur and Sarah Schulz, two duos that had successful qualifier campaigns last month in Tlaxcala.

Another German team, composed of Sandra Itllinger and Isabel Schneider, rank third. The pair will play their first Beach Pro Tour event as partners after winning the 2021 King of the Court Finals in January, in Doha.

Brazil's highest-ranked team in the qualifier are Josi Alves, an Itapema native, and Carol Goerl. The two players are ranked 15th and will have to cause upsets to make it to the main draw at the Meia Praia Beach.

BPT Future Gold Coast - USAvsJPN_RGPM04773

Kloth and Nuss had a remarkable international debut winning a Futures event in Australia

Ranked lower at 21st are Americans Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss. The 25-year-old Kloth and the 24-year-old Nuss had a great campaign in the first Futures event of the Beach Pro Tour season, taking gold in Coolangatta in the first international appearance of their careers.