Volleyball Nations League (VNL) to feature 18 teams from 2025. GETTY IMAGES

The Volleyball Nations League (VNL), the world's most prestigious volleyball competition, will increase the number of teams and change the format. There will be 232 matches, twelve per team and four per week, with longer breaks between matches. The top eight teams will continue in the tournament with a Final Eight format in the final stage.

The VNL is being reinvented. From 2025, there will be more teams, more matches, more excitement and more benefits for all involved. Following the success of the 2023 edition in terms of impact, sport and audience, the organisers have decided to expand the world's most prestigious annual volleyball competition to 18 teams from 2025. The format, the schedule and much more will change.

The competition was founded in 2018 and the current contracts with the participating teams expire in 2024 and some of its features will be renewed from 2025. What has convinced the organisers and leaders of the competition to reinvent some of its structures is the success of last year's edition, with record TV and Volleyball TV viewership, increased social media engagement and sold-out venues.

The cumulative global audience grew by 48% from 2022 to 2023. In addition, the sponsorship value of the VNL increased by 27 per cent and the TV audience grew by 13 per cent to 630 million viewers. The VNL reached a social media audience of 214 million.

New Volleyball National League format to start in 2025. VNL
New Volleyball National League format to start in 2025. VNL

The improvement of the VNL was proposed by the FIVB/Volleyball World Team in order to reach more countries each year. There will be no relegation for the participating teams in the VNL 2024, while the winner of the Volleyball Challenger Cup 2024 and the highest ranked team not yet qualified according to the Senior Volleyball World Ranking will join the participating teams in the VNL 2025.

The competition schedule will also be streamlined, 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's rest in the middle of the tournament.

The revised structure will see the 18 teams split into three groups of six for each of the three weeks of competition. A total of 232 matches will be played over the course of the tournament in this new format for both the Girls' and Boys' VNL. Each team will play 12 matches, four per team per week.

The final stage (quarter-finals) will be contested by the top eight teams at the end of the preliminary stage, with the host team guaranteed a place. It will continue to be played on a knockout basis with a total of eight matches.

The success of the 2023 VNL suggests that the competition will continue to grow. GETTY IMAGES
The success of the 2023 VNL suggests that the competition will continue to grow. GETTY IMAGES

Consideration has also been given to the 2028 edition, which will coincide with an Olympic year. On this occasion, a shortened format will be used to coincide with the Olympic Games and will be determined at a later date. Newly promoted teams from France (women) and Turkey (men) will be part of the VNL in 2025.

With the VNL ending just weeks before Paris 2024, the competition rules for 2024 have also been aligned with those of the Olympic Games. This will provide the best possible preparation conditions for the teams. Hosts have already been announced for the 2024 VNL pools, men's finals and women's finals. The VNL 2024 match schedule was also announced earlier this month.