By Todd Kortemeier | May 21, 2019, 12:01 a.m. (ET)

 

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 run July 24-Aug. 9, 2020, and while they are still 15 months away there’s a lot to learn on your quest to becoming the ultimate fan. Each Tuesday leading up to the Games, TeamUSA.org will present a nugget you should read about – from athletes to watch to storylines to follow to Japanese culture and landmarks – as part of “Tokyo 2020 Tuesday.” Follow along on social media with the hashtag #Tokyo2020Tuesday.

 

In winning the inaugural 2018 FIVB Women’s Nations League title, Team USA has established a standard of excellence that it hopes to maintain in the 2019 tournament – and through the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Of course, a $1 million prize is a pretty good motivator, too.

The Americans begin their title defense Tuesday in Bulgaria with a preliminary round match against Belgium. The marathon tournament will take Team USA to five different countries in five weeks, playing three matches each week in four-team pools. That includes one week on home soil, hosting Week 3 matches in Lincoln, Nebraska, June 4-6. The Americans will also travel to Italy, China and Russia.

In all, 16 teams will compete for the title, and the U.S. will face each of the other 15 en route to the final round. The top five teams after the five-week preliminary round, plus host China, will move on to the final round, while the bottom team will be dropped from Nations League play in 2020 and replaced by the winner of the Challenge Cup. The final round will again take place in Nanjing, China, where Team USA topped Turkey 3-2 in 2018 to win the inaugural title and the $1 million prize that came with it.

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The U.S. women's national team celebrates winning gold at the FIVB Nations League Tournament on July 1, 2018 in Nanjing, China.

 

Each team has a 25-player roster for the tournament, with 14 of those active for each match week. Fourteen players return to the team from the one that won last year. Included in that group are five of the six Olympians on the team: Rachael Adams, Kim Hill, Jordan Larson, Carli Lloyd and Kelsey Robinson. The only Olympian not on last year’s roster but playing this year is Karsta Lowe. All six Olympians own bronze medals from the Olympic Games Rio 2016, and Larson was also on the silver medal-winning team in 2012.

These seven players will likely be key to the roster in the leadup to the Tokyo 2020 Games, where the U.S. will look to win its first women’s gold medal in Olympic history. Team USA has its first chance to earn a spot in Tokyo at an Olympic qualification tournament held Aug. 2-4 in Louisiana.

On the men’s side, Team USA will look to improve on its third-place finish in 2018 when that tournament gets underway May 31. The Americans can look forward to two doses of home court advantage, both in the Chicago area, as they host Week 4 matches in suburban Chicago as well as the final round on the city’s west side in July. Team USA faces Brazil in Poland for its first match.

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.