THE race is on to qualify for the 2018 Unibet European Championship in Dortmund as the European Tour returns to action this weekend.
The German Darts Championship in Hildesheim will be the first of the four remaining European Tour events this year, with PDC stars set to battle it out for places in the European Championship.
Taking place at the Westfalenhalle in Dortmund from October 25-28, the continental showpiece will feature the leading 32 players from the final European Tour Order of Merit after 13 events played across the continent this year.
Europe's top players will return to action this weekend in Hildesheim before moving onto Maastricht and Riesa for the following two weekends to complete a September treble-header.
Last year's European Champion Michael van Gerwen currently tops the European Tour order of merit having won six events so far, while fellow-Euro Tour champions Max Hopp, Jonny Clayton and Mensur Suljovic also rest in high positions on the rankings.
Steve Beaton, Brendan Dolan, Jelle Klaasen, Cameron Menzies and Richard North are currently all tied for the final place in the European Championship, with a host of players hoping to force their way into the top 32 over the next few weeks.
Last year's European Championship semi-finalist Kyle Anderson has work to do if he is to replicate that run, while German Darts Masters finalist Dimitri Van den Bergh, World Championship semi-finalist Jamie Lewis and former World Grand Prix champion Robert Thornton are all in need of wins to propel themselves into contention.
The European Tour returns with the German Darts Championship in Hildesheim, Germany from August 31-September 2 and will be broadcast throughout the weekend for PDCTV-HD Subscribers, and through a series of bookmakers' websites worldwide.
The Dutch Darts Championship will be held in Maastricht from September 7-9, with the International Darts Open in Riesa from September 14-16.
The final PDC European Tour event will be the European Darts Trophy from October 12-14 in Gottingen, Germany.
The 2018 Unibet European Championship will be held from October 25-28 at the Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Germany, live on ITV4.
For tickets for all events, visit www.pdc-europe.tv.
Provisional European Tour Order of Merit for Unibet European Championship
(before 2018 German Darts Championship):
ARTICLE BY JOSH PHILLIPS