Thirty-one countries will play at the 2016 Women's Softball World Championships ©Surrey2016

A record 31 countries will take part at the 15th World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Women's Softball World Championships this year.

The governing body announced its biggest ever line-up today and revealed the group stage draw, ahead of the tournament in Surrey between July 15 and 24.

All five WBSC regions will be represented at the Softball City venue, with defending champions Japan, the winners of the last two editions, drawn with Venezuela and France in section one of the group phase.

Section two features nine-time champions United States, who won all seven tournaments between 1986 and 2010 but were runners-up to the Japanese at the last two outings.

They will meet Brazil, Austria and Israel, while section three features Australia, Mexico, Switzerland and Serbia.

Hosts and Pan American Games champions Canada will play in section four
Hosts and Pan American Games champions Canada will play in section four ©Getty Images

Hosts Canada, the gold medallists at last year's Pan American Games in Toronto, will meet Great Britain, Ireland and Uganda in section four, with Chinese Taipei, Puerto Rico, India and Ecuador grouped in section five.

Section six will see The Netherlands face Czech Republic, Philippines and Pakistan with China, Cuba, Guatemala and Greece playing in section seven. 

In section eight, New Zealand will play Italy, Kenya and Peru.

WBSC Softball President, Dale McMann said: "The worldwide interest and development of our sport globally is reflected in the widest field of nations participating in the pinnacle women's softball event, while new nations continue to enrich and emerge upon our sport's global stage."

In addition, it has been announced that umpires from 18 countries will officiate at the event.