By David Gold

Womens World_Fastpitch_Championship_10_JulyJuly 10 – The United States, winner of the last seven tournaments, will be heavy favourites for glory once again when the International Softball Federation (ISF) Women's World Fastpitch Championship kicks off later this week.

The biennial competition, held in Yukon, Canada, runs from July 13 to 22, and is regarded as the blue riband event of the women's game.

As bronze medallists at the last World Championship in Caracas, Venezuela, hosts Canada will hope to go closer to challenging their North American rivals.

Japan, runners-up in 2010, will compete in the same group as the Canadians.

The duo will battle with Australia, Chinese Taipei, Great Britain (pictured below), Italy, Mexico and New Zealand in Section B.

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The United States is in section A along with Argentina, China, Czech Republic, European champions the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, South Africa and Venezuela.

Australia, China, Venezuela and Chinese Taipei may start as outsiders, as well as European powers the Netherlands and Italy.

The top four teams will advance from each group to the play-off rounds.

Softball is bidding to return to the Olympic programme for 2020 after being dropped following Beijing 2008.

It is being considered along with squash, baseball, climbing, karate, roller skating, wakeboarding and wushu for the Games in eight years' time.

A recommendation on which sport to include will be made next May with a final decision reached later in 2013.

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