The VNL expands: more teams, more countries, more audiences

The Volleyball Nations League (VNL), the annual elite national volleyball competition, will increase the number of teams and change the format. There will be 232 games in the season. “The idea is to improve the VNL experience for athletes, host cities and fans,” the organization said.

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The VNL started in 2018 and the ratings were growing. 
Credit. World Voleyball
The VNL started in 2018 and the ratings were growing. Credit. World Voleyball

The VNL is reinventing itself. Starting in 2025, there will be more teams, more games, more excitement and more benefits for everyone involved. After the success of the 2023 edition in terms of impact, sport and audience, World Volleyball decided to expand its annual competition to 18 teams starting next year.

The Nations League had its first edition in 2018 and the current contracts with the participating teams expire in 2024. A record television audience, an increase in the community on social media and several cut tickets are some of the elements behind the decision to relaunch the format by 2025. The cumulative global audience grew 48 percent from 2022 to 2023. In addition, the value of sponsorship increased by 27 percent and the television audience grew to 630 million viewers.

The main innovation will be the increase in participants, from the current 16 to 18, so there will be no relegation in the 2024 edition. The winner of the Challenger Cup (which functions as the second division) and the highest-ranked country in the world ranking will enter the competition next year.

The competition schedule will also be simplified, with the number of match days reduced from six to five. The host team will play four days in front of their home crowd and players will also benefit from an extra week of rest in the middle of the tournament.

The revised structure will see the 18 teams divided into three groups of six for each of the three weeks of competition. Each team will play 12 games, four per week.

The final stage will be played in a single city among the top eight finishers, with a guaranteed place for the country.

In its statement, Volleyball World clarified that this format will be used in the editions from 2025 to 2027. For the following year, on the occasion of the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games, new changes will be made. The idea is that the competition is compacted due to the calendar and thus avoid the last Olympic classifications being defined so close to the Games.

World Volleyball said it hopes that these changes will “improve the VNL experience” for athletes, fans, host cities and all other stakeholders alike. The goal is to ensure that the VNL remains a world-class spectacle through continuous improvements.