The second women’s Volleyball Pan American Cup starts on Monday with four matches in Saltillo, Mexico featuring Puerto Rico against Canada while USA entertains Brazil in Group A. Cuba meets Venezuela and Mexico faces the Dominican Republic in Group B.
Eight teams of the Americas will be battling to gain four available places in next year's World Grand Prix, however the top South American squad will also qualify if one does not finish in the top four.
The Cubans are being considered as the favorites before the tournament with the USA as strong rivals, so a tight battle is anticipated for the remaining two places in the 2004 premier women FIVB competition. Brazil is also a strong contender.
Puerto Rico beat the Dominican Republic in the World Championship in Germany and Mexico defeated the Dominicans in the Mexicali Cup this year, but the host team of the Pan American Games gained victories against both squads in the Central American and Caribbean Games in El Salvador last November. Venezuela is taking its first step in this event and is a longshot.
Mexico have been the most active team in the friendly matches before the competition, losing to Brazil 21-25, 25-18, 25-17, 24-22 on Saturday before going down to Canada in four sets (25-16, 21-25, 25-22, 25-22) and Cuba by the same margin on Sunday.
Mexico have been host of both editions of the Pan American Cup. Last year in Ensenada and Tijuana, Baja California, Cuba defeated the Dominican Republic in four sets in the match for the gold medal.