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London-bound US men host World League matches

By ANNE M. PETERSON,

AP Sports Writer

Updated June 28, 2012

(AP) -- The Olympics-bound U.S. men's national volleyball team plays in Dallas this weekend to wrap up pool play in the FIVB World League.

Korea, France and Italy will join the United States in matches starting Friday at the Dallas Convention Center Arena. The U.S. men need to win at least two of their three matches to advance to the World League's final round, set for July 4-8 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The United States, currently ranked sixth in the world, opens with Korea on Friday, faces France on Saturday and Italy on Sunday. The Italian men, ranked third in the world, are also going to the London Games.

The U.S. men, under coach Alan Knipe, have won six straight World League matches and lead their pool with a 7-2 record going into the weekend's competition.

Poland, Cuba and host Bulgaria have already advanced to the final round of the World League, the last major international volleyball tournament before the Olympics.

The U.S. men are the defending Olympic gold medalists heading into the London Games. Knipe is using his top players in World League play as he finalizes his roster for the Olympic team. Italy is doing the same.

The U.S. women, meanwhile, have advanced to the final round of the FIVB World Grand Prix in Ningbo, China. Similar to the World League, the Grand Prix is serving as the final international women's competition before the Olympics.

On Thursday, the United States defeated Thailand 3-1, led by Megan Hodge with 25 points. Tayyiba Haneef-Park had eight kills, three blocks and an ace for 12 points in the 25-18, 27-25, 18-25, 25-18 victory.

The U.S. women, ranked No. 1 in the world, extended their record to 11-0 in the Grand Prix competition. The team defeated reigning Olympic champion Brazil in five sets to open the finals on Wednesday.

Cuba, Turkey and China are also playing in the six-team round-robin final round.

The Americans are vying for their third straight title in the tournament before heading to London. The United States, which won the silver medal at the Beijing Games, has never won an Olympic gold medal since indoor volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1964.

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