World Baseball Classic Opens With Major League Competition
• World Baseball Classic looks at soccer’s World Cup for international competition model.
This past winter, the world’s most-watched sporting event, the FIFA World Cup, took center stage. As winter turns into spring, America’s national pastime, baseball, will now take center stage worldwide in the fifth World Baseball Classic.
The United States, who won its first WBC title in 2017, seeks to defend its crown for the first time. Fittingly, the Americans will open up the WBC on March 11 against the age-old rivals of Great Britain.
This year’s version of the World Baseball Classic comes two years after it was initially scheduled to be played. Typically, the WBC occurs every four years, just like its soccer counterpart.
This meant that the fifth World Baseball Classic was initially supposed to be played in March of 2021.
However, COVID-19 threw those plans into a whirlwind. Due to ongoing complications with foreign travel, the WBC was pushed back from 2021 to 2023.
The first-ever World Baseball Classic was played in March of 2006. The event was proposed by Major League Baseball in response to baseball being removed as an Olympic sport in 2005 (although baseball has since been reinstated to the Olympics). Japan won the inaugural WBC in 2006.
The first two Classics were played three years apart. Then, the Classic was played every four years until COVID disrupted the schedule. It took until the fourth playing of the WBC in 2017 for the United States to finally win its first title.
World Baseball Classic play began on March 8, Wednesday. However, the United States will open with its first game on March 11, Saturday. The 20-nation field is divided into four pods of five teams each.
Each pod has its own city for the group stage of the tournament, with pods spread out around the world. The United States will play the group stage in Phoenix. If the US advances out of the group stage to the quarterfinals, all games from therein will be played in Miami.
The championship game will be played there on March 21.
The United States and the Dominican Republic are the two teams favored to win the Classic. Both countries boast impressive lineups stacked with top Major Leaguers.
The United States roster includes some of the best players in the Major Leagues, including Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Paul Goldschmidt.