Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sept 13, 2003 - The 2003 Norceca Women Continental Championship, a qualifier to the World Cup in Japan, starts this Sunday with three matches in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Seven teams from the region will battle for two berths to the World Cup, the first qualifier for the Olympic Games next year in Athens.
Mexico announced its withdrawal from the competition leaving Pool B with three teams -USA, Cuba and Costa Rica.
The participating squads in Pool A are: Dominican Republic, Canada, Puerto Rico and Trinidad & Tobago.
USA is considered tournament favorite while Cuba and Dominican Republic are both powerhouses of the event.
Canada and Trinidad will play the first match at 4:00 pm (local time) followed by Cuba vs Costa Rica (6:00 pm) and Dominican Republic against Puerto Rico (8:00 pm) in the nightcap.
All matches will be in national television and Dominican Republic matches will be aired on two different stations.
Volleyball has experienced a huge boom here in the Dominican Republic following the country's gold medal victory over Cuba in five sets at the recent Pan American Games. Capacity crowds are expected in the Volleyball Pavillion in the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Centre.
The top team in each pool automatically advances to the tournament semifinals, scheduled for September 18.
The teams ranked second and third at the conclusion of pool play will play cross-over matches on September 17 (2A vs. 3B, 2B vs. 3A), with the winners advancing to the semifinals and the losers doing battle for fifth place on September 18.
The winner of the Cuba-USA match is likely to determine who will win Pool B and earn a quick trip to the semifinals. Dominican Republic is a heavy favorite in Pool A.