World Baseball Classic expanding to 28 teams
The World Baseball Classic is expanding to 28 teams for the 2013 tournament, which will begin with a qualifying round in the fall of 2012. The qualifying field will be made up of 16 teams divided into four pools of four teams each. They will play a modified double-elimination format.
Countries invited to participate include the four that did not win a game in pool play in the last classic in 2009 -- Canada, Taiwan, Panama and South Africa. Also in the qualifying field are Brazil, Colombia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Britain, Israel, New Zealand, Nicaragua, the Philippines,Spain and Thailand.
The decision on which countries to invite was based on factors such as strength of the native player base, number of professional players, IBAF international rankings, viability of domestic baseball programs, participant’s impact on baseball development in the country and diverse global representation.
“Growing the game of baseball around the globe is the primary objective of the World Baseball Classic. By expanding the competitive field of the 2013 tournament, we are demonstrating our commitment to this goal," Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.
With baseball removed from the Olympic schedule for the 2012 Games in London, the WBC has become the sport's premier international tournament
“The expansion of the World Baseball Classic from 16 to 28 teams is a testament to the sport’s continuing growth in participation and popularity around the world,” said union leader Michael Weiner. “The overwhelming fan, player and media support bestowed upon the first two World Baseball Classics is at the root of this decision, which makes the World Baseball Classic a truly global competition.”
-- Kevin Baxter in Kansas City, Mo.
Photo: Japanese fans are jubilant before the start of the World Baseball Classic championship between Japan and Korea at Dodger Stadium in 2009. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times