With qualifying for the fifth-ever World Baseball Classic now over, the tournament has placed the four qualifying teams in their respective pools as the schedule is now set.
The 2023 Tournament will feature a record 20 teams, divided into four pools of five teams. All 16 teams that competed in the 2017 tournament qualified automatically and four more countries emerged from the two qualifier tournaments of six teams each, or twelve total teams.
Within those pools, the five teams will play a round-robin tournament with the top two teams in each pool advancing to the knockout round of eight.
Here’s where the four qualifying teams were assigned:
Group A (Taichung): Panama
Group B (Tokyo): Czech Republic
Group C (Phoenix): Great Britain
Group D (Miami): Nicaragua
Here’s a quick look at the four pools:
Group A: Taichung, Chinese Taipei (March 8 through 13)
Quick thoughts: The Netherlands should be the favorite here, but other than that, this is a wide-open group and all five teams have a chance of advancing. Panama looked to be the strongest of the qualifying teams and they got put in the weakest pool. Chinese Taipei will have the benefit of home-field advantage. Italy is a wild card that depends on how many professionals from the Western Hemisphere qualify for and decide to play for Team Italy. Cuba is such an unknown these days. While they would be the easy favorites in this group if the Cubans who play for MLB organizations were allowed to play, it’s hard to know what talent Cuba has left on their island.
Group B: Tokyo, Japan (March 9 through 13)
Quick thoughts: Japan and Korea should qualify easily. The real question here is which country will emerge with the No. 1 seed. Australia faces long odds, but at least they have a very small chance of knocking off one of the favorites. China and the Czech Republic are just happy to be here. The game between those two on Friday, March 10 could decide who automatically qualifies for the next WBC, so that game could have some high stakes.
Group C: Phoenix, Arizona (March 11 through 15)
Quick thoughts: No surprise, but the defending champion US team was given a pretty easy path to the knockout rounds. Mexico, Colombia and Canada will fight for the second berth and I’d rank them in that order. But any of those three could get the second spot. Great Britain will be happy to soak up the Arizona sun and have some stories to tell their grandchildren one day.
Group D: Miami, Florida (March 11 through 15)
Quick thoughts: If there’s a “Group of Death,” here it is. Only two of the three powers, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, can advance and Israel and Nicaragua are no slouches either. The Dominican team is the favorite to advance here and that matchup between Venezuela and Puerto Rico on March 12 will be huge. Prediction: either Israel or Nicaragua wins one game against the big three and that loss will cost the losing nation a spot in the knockout round.