The fourth World Baseball Classic will take place in the spring of 2017, which means the qualifying rounds for the tournament will start in 2016. Today, World Baseball Classic Inc. announced the four qualifying pools and the four venues for the modified double-elimination pool play.
The four host cities are:
- Blacktown International Sportspark in Sydney, Australia
- Estadio B Air in Mexicali, Mexico
- Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City, Panama
- MCU Park in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Panama City returns as a host of a qualifier from 2013 and Sydney, Mexicali and Brooklyn are all new, replacing New Taipei City, Taiwan; Regensburg, Germany; and Jupiter, FL. There were no qualifying rounds in the first two WBC tournaments.
The pools of the 16 teams were also announced.
- Playing in Sydney on February 11-14 will be Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Africa.
- The four teams in Mexicali on March 17-20 will be Mexico, the Czech Republic, Germany and Nicaragua.
- Panama City will host Colombia, France, Panama and Spain also on March 17-20.
- Brooklyn fans will get to see Brazil, Great Britain, Israel and Pakistan in the fall on September 22-25.
Pakistan will be competing in the WBC qualifying rounds for the first time, taking Thailand's spot. Australia, Mexico, Spain and Brazil are all in the qualifiers because they didn't win a single game in the pool play of the WBC finals in 2013. The other 11 teams are back from the qualifying rounds in 2013.
The qualifying rounds in 2012 provided some thrilling baseball, especially when the Barry Larkin-managed Brazilian team twice upset Panama in Panama City. Spain's upset of Israel was also a fun game to watch. I won't lie to you and say they were all thrilling. Chinese Taipei outscored their opponents 35-0 in the three games they played to qualify. (Luckily, CT is an automatic qualifier for 2017)
But what is best about these games is the chance to see the passion that fans in other parts of the world have for the game. Panama City and New Taipei City were especially electric when their home countries played. I expect the same kinds of excitement in the 2016 qualifiers.
The other good news in all of this is that there will be baseball that counts being played as early as February next year, so your winters for the next two seasons are going to be just a little shorter thanks to the WBC.