Nine of the world's top hockey-playing nations are all to set to cross swords in a six-month-long home and away league ahead of the Tokyo Olympics as the 2020 Men's FIH Pro League begins this weekend.
The Indians did not play the inaugural edition of FIH's novel and ambitious brainchild - yet, the second chapter of the tournament begins at Odisha's Kalinga Stadium where the hosts take on a formidable Netherlands team who won the Pro League bronze last year.
The Indians will also host Pro League champions Australia and runners up Belgium next month before taking on New Zealand in the latter stages of the league.
Graham Reid's side will also visit Germany, Great Britain, Argentina, and Spain to play their quota of eight away matches as per the new format which aims to cut travel by half as compared to the first edition where every team played the other in a home as well as an away match in the same season.
The team which hosts a particular side in 2020 will visit that particular side in 2021 as per the new rules.
The Australians regained their numero uno status following last year's Pro League - and although the Belgians have slipped to the second position in the FIH world rankings, a wafer-thin margin separates the two. A potential humdinger is on the cards when the two heavyweights clash at Sydney on January 25 and 26.
Max Caldas' Dutch side who won silver at the Odisha World Cup are currently ranked third in the world while Rio Olympic gold medalists Argentina failed to reach the Grand Finals of the Pro League last season but have held on to their fourth ranking.
The Grand FInal - involving the top four teams of the league - has been done away with and the team that collects the maximum number of points at the end of the competition will be declared as the winners from hereon.
The fifth-ranked Indians will need to play out of their skins if they are to justify and retain their position amongst the elite of the game - not just against the more fancied teams but also to match Germany, Great Britain, Spain and New Zealand - all of whom played the first edition.
The Germans have been off-colour for a while now but the side which won back-to-back Olympic titles in 2008 and 2012 have what it takes to regain their old glory while Great Britain who qualified for the 2019 Grand Final will be looking to repeat the heroics of last season.
The Spanish left hockey pundits bewildered by winning five shootouts last year and take on Germany next weekend - while, New Zealand who struggled to earn points in 2019 will need to pull up their socks this time around.
Two back-to-back weekend matches will keep hockey fans mesmerised as the teams battle for ranking points and attempt to discover their best combinations before the Tokyo Olympics. A shootout will decide the winner if scores remain level at the end of regulation time and the team that wins the shootout will earn a bonus shootout point.
Here is how you can catch all the action:
Event: Men's FIH Pro League 2020
Telecast: Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD
Live Streaming: Hotstar, FIH Live