The 2023 My Diesel Claim World Cup of Darts begins in Germany on Thursday, as a record 40 nations battle it out in the annual festival of darts at the Eissporthalle in Frankfurt.
The 13th edition of the World Cup of Darts has been expanded from 32 to 40 teams in a revamped format, featuring a group stage and Doubles matches across four days of competition from June 15-18.
England, Wales, Netherlands and Scotland - the top four ranked nations based on cumulative PDC Order of Merit ranking - will enter the tournament at the second round stage on Saturday.
The remaining 36 teams have been split into 12 groups of three for the round-robin first round - including 12 seeded nations - from which each group winner will progress.
Damon Heta and Simon Whitlock steered Australia to a maiden World Cup title 12 months ago, and they will return in a bid to retain their title in the popular Pairs event at the Eissporthalle.
The Australian duo defeated Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton to triumph in last year's showpiece, and they have been pitted against Gibraltar and debutants Guyana in Group C.
Heta warmed up for Australia's World Cup title defence by clinching his first ranking title of 2023 in Tuesday's Players Championship 14, and he heads to Frankfurt in confident mood.
"It probably gives Simon a bit of confidence that he can count on me," added Heta, making his fourth straight World Cup appearance.
"I know that Simon has been playing well this year too, and I can always count on him because he always steps up for the World Cup.
"I'm absolutely looking forward to it. Hopefully we can back it up, but we'll have to do it the hard way!
"The best of seven legs format is cut-throat, but it's great for the other nations. They have a chance to prove themselves. I think it's going to be great."
World number one Michael Smith and 2018 World Champion Rob Cross will team up for top seeds England, having reached the final in their most recent appearance as a pairing back in 2020.
They were beaten by Wales on that occasion, and Price and Clayton will renew their formidable partnership for the second seeds - the bookmakers' favourites to triumph this weekend.
Price and Clayton will be competing in tandem for a sixth consecutive year, as they aim to become only the fourth nation to claim multiple World Cup successes.
"To be in a team with Gerwyn Price in his current form is fantastic," admitted Clayton, who succumbed to his compatriot in last month's Premier League semi-finals.
"I love the World Cup and it's all Pairs this year, so I think it's open for anybody.
"It's a totally different game. It's got to be done as a team and we've got to be firing from the word go, but I'm really looking forward to it.
"We've won it once before and we want to do it again. I would love to kick off the same season I had last time!"
Danny Noppert will again team up with Dirk van Duijvenbode for four-time winners Netherlands, after Michael van Gerwen was forced to withdraw after undergoing surgery earlier this week.
However, a resurgent Gary Anderson will make his World Cup return alongside world number two Peter Wright for Scotland, as the pair compete together for the first time since their 2019 success.
Wright - who also inspired Scotland to victory alongside John Henderson in 2021 - has struggled for consistency this year, but he is relishing the chance to renew his partnership with two-time World Champion Anderson.
"Gary's form has been fantastic," admitted Wright, who has claimed titles at the Nordic Darts Masters and the Czech Darts Open in 2023.
"Gary has been hitting so many ton-plus averages on the floor. I wish I could get back to my ton-plus averages, but playing for my country adds that pressure which will make me focus and concentrate."
Wright was seen adopting a different grip at the recent US Darts Masters, but he's vowed to return to his tried and tested formula in Frankfurt.
"The different grip is something I want to bring into my game later in the year. I used to throw like that when I was a youngster," he added.
"I don't want to ruin my chances of winning the World Cup with Gary by experimenting, so I'm going to concentrate on my normal throw, and then maybe use my old throw at the Matchplay."
Gabriel Clemens and Martin Schindler will lead the charge for host nation Germany, with Dimitri Van den Bergh and Kim Huybrechts representing fifth seeds Belgium in this year's showpiece.
Brendan Dolan and Daryl Gurney return for Northern Ireland, with former finalists Austria and Republic of Ireland also set to feature in the round-robin phase.
North American champion Jeff Smith will return to big stage action following his Madison Square Garden exploits, as he makes his fifth appearance for three-time quarter-finalists Canada.
Smith will partner Canadian number one Matt Campbell - the man he beat to lift the North American Championship - and Smith believes they can pose a threat to anybody.
"I have played well all year without results. I needed a confidence booster and winning that title was definitely a confidence booster," said Smith, who also made the US Darts Masters final in New York.
"Matt will be a top 16 player in the PDC. I totally believe that, and I cannot wait to partner him in Germany.
"We both play well together and we're good friends, so it's a combination that makes us dangerous for anyone."
Poland, Czech Republic, Spain, Latvia and Switzerland make up the seeded nations in the group phase, with Iceland, Guyana, Bahrain, Ukraine the four debutants in this year's expanded event.
The losing nations from Thursday's opening group matches will play the third team from each group in Friday's afternoon session, with the decisive final group games set to be played on Friday evening.
Following the completion of the round-robin phase, the draw for the last 16 will take place on Friday evening, as England, Wales, Netherlands and Scotland enter the fray in Saturday's second round.
The quarter-finals, semi-finals and final will then take place during a bumper double session on Sunday, and the schedule of play for the remainder of the tournament will be confirmed in due course.
The My Diesel Claim World Cup of Darts will be broadcast on Sky Sports for viewers in the UK & Ireland, through the PDC's international broadcast partners, including DAZN and Viaplay, and on PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers.