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Tied at the top of the standings, USA and Japan now know they will participate in the Final Phase

The Volleyball Nations League matches taking place in Sofia, Bulgaria, and Calgary, Canada, this week are the last of the 96 scheduled for the women's teams participating in the Preliminary Phase and have a major impact on determining which national teams will compete for the title of the fourth edition of the tournament.

Only eight of the 16 squads currently taking part in the VNL will qualify for the Final Phase, which will be played in Ankara, Türkiye, from July 13-17. With each national team having now played nine of their 12 Preliminary Phase matches, a clearer image of who will play for the gold medals next month is beginning to appear.

· Watch all VNL 2022 matches live on Volleyball TV.

Right now, three nations know they will be able to play for gold at the Finals in Ankara – the United States, Japan and Türkiye. Tied at the top of the standings with eight wins each (24 points), Americans and Japanese cannot fall outside the qualification zone anymore and will likely fight for the top spot in the standings between now and Sunday.

Türkiye are also guaranteed a place in the Final Round as the host country. They are, however, also in the process of earning their place in the next stage based on their performances alone - they are currently ranked seventh with five victories (16 points).

South American champions Brazil and European champions Italy may be the next to book their tickets for Ankara. The two teams currently have seven wins and 20 points and could confirm their participation in the Final Phase when they play next – Brazil take on Korea on Thursday, who also happen to be the next opponents of Italy, on Friday.

With six wins and 17 points, reigning world champions Serbia are also well-placed to advance. The Europeans, however, have three difficult opponents this week including the United States, Canada and Japan, and will need to win at least one of the three matches to improve their chances of ending the Preliminary Phase among the eight best teams.

Two teams have won five matches so far and complete the current top eight. China have the edge over fellow Asian team Thailand, however, because of their higher points total (17 to 15). These national teams will depend only on their own efforts to remain among the best, and China have a particularly interesting schedule as they still have Poland (on Thursday) and the Dominican Republic (on Friday) to play. Both will also hope to progress to the Finals.

Canada are ranked ninth at this point, on the same number of wins as Poland (4), but have 12 points against 11 for the Europeans. Competing in the VNL for just the second time, they have the advantage of playing at home this week in Calgary and will try and use the energy their fans provide to beat Serbia, Germany and the Netherlands and find their way into the top eight.

The Dominican Republic (nine points), Bulgaria (nine) and Belgium (six), with three wins each, also remain in the hunt for a spot in the Final Phase, as do the Netherlands (eight) and Germany (eight), who have each won twice in the VNL 2022. Each of these teams would need a favourable combination of results to progress.

Canadians, Poles, Dominicans, Bulgarians and Belgians also have another battle to fight. The team that finishes lowest in the table will need to win this year’s Volleyball Challenger Cup to earn a spot in the VNL in 2023.

Korea, who remain winless and are yet to win any points, are the only team completely out of the race for a spot in the Finals. They will, however, play in the VNL 2023 as one of the event’s core teams.