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The mayor of London says MLB will be returning to the UK

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He said “next year” in an interview — but more likely, it’s 2023 or later.

The Red Sox and Yankees play at London Stadium, June 30, 2019
Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Major League Baseball’s first regular season games in Europe were played in London in June 2019, featuring the Yankees and Red Sox.

The Cubs and Cardinals were supposed to play there on June 13 and 14, 2020, but those games were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (I had planned to go to those games.)

Now, this video interview with Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, seems to indicate a return to London for MLB — next year (note the timestamp if you want to scroll in for the exact quote):

“Major League Baseball coming back to London next year,” the mayor says in that video clip.

Well.

First, MLB’s schedule for 2022 is already set. It would require quite a bit of switching around to move any already-scheduled games to London, since — as was scheduled in 2019 and had been set for 2020 — teams involved need a day game in the Eastern time zone and two off days before two games in London, then another off day followed by a night game in either the Eastern or Central time zone upon return. That’s how the Yankees and Red Sox were scheduled in 2019 and how the Cubs and Cardinals, who would have played there in 2020, were scheduled before last year’s cancellation. This wouldn’t just require the two teams involved in a London Series to be rescheduled, other teams’ schedules might have to be re-done.

Further, all the international games that MLB teams have played since 2016, which include contests in Japan, Mexico and Puerto Rico as well as the UK, were part of the last MLB/MLBPA collective bargaining agreement. Thus I’d think that would be the case for any games going forward, and it takes quite a bit of planning to pull these off, it’s not as simple as just putting two teams on airplanes and flying them to a distant destination several time zones from the USA. If MLB teams were going to be playing in London in 2022, planning would have had to already be underway and tickets about to go on sale — for the Cubs/Cardinals 2020 games, those tickets began to be sold in November 2019. None of this has happened.

So, my guess is that Mayor Khan is either speaking a bit out of turn, or he misspoke and meant 2023.

I hope this is the case and MLB puts more international games in the next CBA. Growing the game internationally is important and is one of the things MLB has actually done well in recent years. Also, since the Cubs and Cardinals were cancelled out of their chance to play in London in 2020, I hope that matchup will be the next one in London — or somewhere else, if MLB chooses to go to new countries, possibly the Netherlands or Italy, where there are professional leagues.

As always, we await developments.