The USA men can capture first place in Volleyball Nations League when they play Bulgaria in Anaheim on Sunday to complete the third round.
The Americans improved to 9-2 on Saturday with a tough sweep of France, while Japan lost to Poland, leaving both those teams 10-2.
After Sunday, the top eight teams move on to the quarterfinals in Gdansk, Poland, July 19-20.
There are two other matches Sunday in Anaheim when Cuba plays Iran and France plays Germany.
Most likely, the eight moving on are USA, Japan, Poland, Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Slovenia and Serbia, but Volleyball World reported that a France win over Germany would get France in and knock Serbia out.
USA sweeps France
The Americans were coming off a long, tough five-set loss to Argentina that took nearly three hours, but prevailed over France (5-6) 25-23, 27-25, 27-25.
“I was so tired this morning,” said USA setter Micah Christenson, who had three blocks and a team-high six digs. “We were just gassed from last night.
“A lot of us have played three games in a row. I think it just goes to show the preparation that goes into it and the mental toughness it takes to come in here and play at a high level.”
Aaron Russell led a balanced attack with 11 kills, two blocks and an ace.
TJ DeFalco had nine kills and two blocks, while Averill Taylor had seven kills, a block and an ace.
Matt Anderson had seven kills, four digs and an ace and Max Holt had four kills an ace.
Each team had eight blocks and France had more kills, 41-38. The USA hit .316.
“Some of the issues that hurt us last night, hurt us tonight as well,” USA coach John Speraw said. “I was really impressed with how we came out, even though we were battling some obvious fatigue.
“This group has done a remarkable job over the years at different times when we have been challenged, we’ve come back and done really well. I have a ton of trust in the team that they can do that.”
France had three players — Barthelemy Chinenyeze, Jean Patry and Trevor Clevenot — with nine kills each, and Yacine Louati had eight to go with two blocks and an ace.
There were other matches in Anaheim on Saturday.
Serbia (6-6) swept Bulgaria (2-9) before the USA match, and then Argentina (9-3) won another five-setter, this time over Iran (2-9).
Sunday in Pasay City, Phiippines, Canada finished 3-9 with a four-set win over last-place China (2-10). Slovenia (8-4) swept the Netherlands (5-7) and Poland (10-2) swept Japan (10-2).
Poland’s balanced attack saw Lukasz Kaczmarek and Aleksander Sliwka get 11 kills each, while Wilfredo Leon had 10 kills, three blocks and three aces.
Japan, which finished with back-to-back losses after losing to Italy in four on Friday, was outblocked 7-1 and Poland had eight aces to Japan’s two.
“Japan are a great team and, with this crowd, it’s pretty difficult to play against them. We expected it, but we had a lot of fun on the court,” Polish libero Pawel Zatorski said.
“We really appreciate this game, because it didn’t change a lot in the ranking, but we treated it as a big lesson to play against one of the best teams in the world at the moment. We also appreciate the crowd, because they created an atmosphere of a most important game. We look forward to going back to Poland.
“Of course, it’s beautiful here, in the Philippines, but playing in Poland always brings a special power for us and our fans are a big advantage.”