FORMER champion James Wade and top stars Gary Anderson and Peter Wright will open the 2017 BetVictor World Matchplay on Saturday July 22, following the confirmation of the schedule of play for the tournament.

Blackpool's famous Winter Gardens will host the summer's favourite tournament from July 22-30, with 32 players competing live on Sky Sports for the prestigious title.

The first round is split across the opening three days, including a double session on Sunday July 23, with a high-profile opening night set to see the tournament begin in style.

Former World Youth Champion Michael Smith will face Blackpool debutant Steve West in the opening fixture, before 2007 champion James Wade - who has also reached five other World Matchplay finals - takes on Darren Webster.

World number two Gary Anderson then faces Dutchman Christian Kist, before 2017 UK Open champion Peter Wright, the number three seed, plays another World Matchplay debutant, James Wilson.

Sunday's afternoon session will begin as Premier League ace Jelle Klaasen faces Justin Pipe, who snatched the final qualification spot in the tournament last weekend.

Former UK Open and World Grand Prix champion Robert Thornton then plays Spanish debutant Cristo Reyes, emerging talents Benito van de Pas and Daryl Gurney clash before former European Championship finalist Mensur Suljovic meets John Henderson.

Legendary 15-time World Matchplay champion Phil Taylor begins his final challenge in Blackpool before retirement in Sunday's evening session, when he takes on UK Open finalist Gerwyn Price.

Sunday night also sees Premier League stars Dave Chisnall, Raymond van Barneveld and Kim Huybrechts in action, as they take on Mervyn King, Joe Cullen and Alan Norris respectively.

Reigning World Matchplay champion Michael van Gerwen - the 4/5 pre-tournament favourite with sponsors BetVictor - then begins his bid to win a third successive Blackpool title on Monday night as he plays Stephen Bunting.

The final night of first round action will begin with the all-Australian clash between Simon Whitlock and Kyle Anderson, before Adrian Lewis takes on Steve Beaton and Ian White meets fast-emerging debutant Rob Cross.

The second round is split across Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Blackpool, with the players from the bottom half of the draw playing on Tuesday and those in the top half in action on Wednesday.

The quarter-finals are then split across Thursday and Friday, with the semi-finals on Saturday before the eagerly-awaited final on Sunday.

The tournament features a new record £500,000 prize money this year, including £115,000 to the eventual champion, with a £10,000 bonus on offer for a nine-dart finish.

While Van Gerwen is the pre-tournament favourite with BetVictor, Scottish star Gary Anderson has seen his odds cut to 9/2, with Wright the third favourite at 11/2, while Taylor is an unprecedented 20/1 as he seeks a farewell triumph in Blackpool.

Tickets for the BetVictor World Matchplay are still available from the Winter Gardens Box Office by telephone at 0844 856 1111 or online through www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk and www.ticketmaster.co.uk.

2017 BetVictor World Matchplay
Saturday July 22 (7pm)

4x First Round
Michael Smith v Steve West
James Wade v Darren Webster
Gary Anderson v Christian Kist
Peter Wright v James Wilson

Sunday July 23
Afternoon Session (1pm)

4x First Round
Jelle Klaasen v Justin Pipe
Robert Thornton v Cristo Reyes
Benito van de Pas v Daryl Gurney
Mensur Suljovic v John Henderson

Evening Session (7.30pm)
4x First Round
Dave Chisnall v Mervyn King
Phil Taylor v Gerwyn Price
Raymond van Barneveld v Joe Cullen
Kim Huybrechts v Alan Norris

Monday July 24 (7pm)
4x First Round
Simon Whitlock v Kyle Anderson
Adrian Lewis v Steve Beaton
Michael van Gerwen v Stephen Bunting
Ian White v Rob Cross

Tuesday July 25 (7pm)
4x Second Round
Suljovic/Henderson v Klaasen/Pipe
Wade/Webster v Smith/West
Anderson/Kist v Van de Pas/Gurney
Wright/Wilson v Thornton/Reyes

Wednesday July 26 (7pm)
4x Second Round
Chisnall/King v Huybrechts/Norris
Lewis/Beaton v White/Cross
Taylor/Price v Van Barneveld/Cullen
Van Gerwen/Bunting v Whitlock/Anderson

Thursday July 27 (7pm)
2x Quarter-Finals

Friday July 28 (7pm)
2x Quarter-Finals

Saturday July 29 (7pm)
Semi-Finals

Sunday July 30 (7pm)
Final

Format
First Round - Best of 19 legs
Second Round - Best of 21 legs
Quarter-Finals - Best of 31 legs
Semi-Finals - Best of 33 legs
Final - Best of 35 legs
* Each game must be won by two clear legs, with up to a maximum of five additional legs being played before the sixth additional leg is sudden-death. For example, should a First Round game (best of 19 legs) reach 12-12, then the 25th leg would be the final and deciding leg.