World Baseball Classic Explained: Everything you need to know about the tournament

It’s been five years since Team USA beat Team Puerto Rico 8-0 to win its first-ever World Baseball Classic title. And for the first time since, the tournament is back.

Pool play for the fifth edition, which was originally scheduled for 2021 but was hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, starts on Wednesday.

Run by MLB, the WBC was introduced in 2006 and championed by then-commissioner Bud Selig as a way to grow the game on the international stage.

This year’s tournament features an expanded field of teams, from 16 to 20, ranging from perennial powerhouses like the United States, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Japan and South Korea, to first-timers Great Britain, Nicaragua and the Czech Republic. Here’s what you need to know.

What are the dates?

The tournament starts on March 8 (although the first match, which will be played in Taiwan, starts at 11:00 PM ET on March 7), and the finals will be played on March 21.

Which teams are playing?

The field consists of 20 teams playing in four pools. We will introduce them to you as the pool play progresses.

Pool A

Chinese Taipei

Pool B

The Czech Republic

Pool C

United States
Great Britain

Pool D

Puerto Rico
Dominican Republic

Where do the games take place?

In the first round, Pool A will play in Taichung, Taiwan, at the Intercontinental Baseball Stadium. Pool B plays in the Tokyo Dome in Japan. Pool C is at Chase Field in Phoenix and Pool D is at loanDepot Park in Miami.

Second round matches (the quarter-finals) will be played at Tokyo Dome (for the top two teams in Pools A and B) and loanDepot Park (for the top two teams from Pools C and D), and the semi-finals and finals will be played. in Miami.

How can I see? What is the schedule?

In the US, the games will be available on Fox, FS1, FS2, FOX Deportes, Tubi and the Fox Sports app.

Here is the schedule for the first round:

Tuesday 7 March

Cuba vs. Netherlands (11 p.m. ET)

Wednesday 8 March

Panama vs. Chinese Taipei (10 a.m. ET)
Australia vs. Korea (10 p.m. ET)
Panama vs. Netherlands (11 p.m. ET)

Thursday 9 March

China vs. Japan (5 a.m. ET)
Italy vs. Cuba (at 7 p.m. ET)
Czech Republic vs. China (10 p.m. ET)
Cuba vs. Panama (11:30 p.m. ET)

Friday, March 10

Korea vs. Japan (5 a.m. ET)
Italy vs. Chinese Taipei (10 a.m. ET)
China vs. Australia (10 p.m. ET)
Panama vs. Italy (11 p.m. ET)

Saturday 11 March

Czech Republic vs. Japan (5 a.m. ET)
Holland vs. Chinese Taipei (10 a.m. ET)
Nicaragua vs. Puerto Rico (12pm ET)
Colombia vs. Mexico (2:30 p.m. ET)
Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela (7 p.m. ET)
Great Britain vs. USA (9 p.m. ET)
Czech Republic vs. Korea (10 p.m. ET)
Chinese Taipei vs. Cuba (11 p.m. ET)

Sunday, March 12

Japan vs. Australia (at 7 p.m. ET)
Holland vs. Italy (7 a.m. ET)
Nicaragua vs. Israel (12 p.m. ET)
Great Britain vs. Canada (3 p.m. ET)
Venezuela vs. Puerto Rico (7 p.m. ET)
Mexico vs. USA (10 p.m. ET)
Australia vs. Czech Republic (11 p.m. ET)

Monday, March 13

Korea vs. China (1:00 p.m. ET)
Dominican Republic vs. Nicaragua (12 p.m. ET)
Colombia vs. Great Britain (3:00 p.m. ET)
Israel vs. Puerto Rico (7 p.m. ET)
Canada vs. USA (10 p.m. ET)

Tuesday 14 March

Nicaragua vs. Venezuela (12 p.m. ET)
Canada vs. Colombia (3 p.m. ET)
Israel vs. Dominican Republic (7 p.m. ET)
Great Britain vs. Mexico (10 p.m. ET)

Wednesday 15 March

(Quarterfinal) Pool B second place vs. Pool A Winner (at 7 p.m. ET)
Venezuela vs. Israel (12pm ET)
Mexico vs. Canada (3 p.m. ET)
Puerto Rico vs. Dominican Republic (7 p.m. ET)
USA vs. Colombia (10 p.m. ET)

The full schedule can be found here.

What is the format?

Each team meets once in the first round. The top two teams from each pool by winning percentage, eight in total, advance to the sudden death quarterfinals (this is a change from 2017, when the quarterfinals also followed the round-robin format). The four quarter-final winners go to the semi-finals and you know what happens after that.

Who plays? Any names I recognize?

Absolutely. Lots of big names from MLB and international leagues will represent different countries. Here are a few examples:

  • Full Team USA roster
  • Pretty much the entire Dominican Republic roster (think Sandy Alcantara, Julio Rodríguez, Manny Machado, Juan Soto)
  • Shohei Ohtani, Yu Darvish, Masataka Yoshida, Lars Nootbar, Roki Sasaki, reigning NPB MVP Munetaka Murakami (Japan)
  • Javier Báez, Francisco Lindor, Edwin Díaz, Marcus Stroman, José Berríos (Puerto Rico)
  • Freddie Freeman, Tyler O’Neill, Cal Quantrill (Canada)
  • KBO MVP Lee Jung-hoo, Ha-seong Kim, Tommy Edman (Korea)
  • Ronald Acuna Jr. Randy Arozarena (Venezuela), Xander Bogaerts (Netherlands)

What are the rules?

The official rulebook is here, so to speak, for those of you who wish to study it. The tournament will use the 2022 MLB rules with a few additions. Here are some highlights:

  • Each team has what is called a designated pitcher pool, 10 pitchers who are not on the official roster but are eligible to pitch in one or more consecutive rounds if necessary
  • Pitch limits affect how pitchers can be used (eg if a pitcher throws 50 pitches in an outing, they can’t pitch again until a minimum of four days have passed)
  • Position players may not pitch unless authorized by the game’s technical committee, which oversees the use of pitchers
  • There is a mercy rule in the first round: games end if there is a lead of 10 or more runs after the seventh inning and 15 runs after the fifth inning
  • The ghost runner goes global – extra innings start with a player on second base
  • Since these are the 2022 rules, the pitch clock, larger bases and shift restrictions will not be used

Why does (player name here) play for (country name here)?

There are seven rules that determine a player’s eligibility to play for a particular team. To simplify matters, a player may represent a country if:

  • They are citizens or permanent legal residents of the country in question
  • They were born in that country
  • One of their parents is a citizen of that country
  • One of their parents was born in that country
  • They are eligible to receive citizenship or a passport for a country
  • They have previously appeared on the final WBC (qualifying or tournament) roster for that country

How long has this tournament been around?

This is the fifth edition of the World Baseball Classic. Japan was the tournament’s first ever winner, beating Cuba in the final to capture the title in 2006 and winning again in 2009. In 2013, the Dominican Republic went unbeaten — the only team to do so in the tournament’s relatively short history — en route to its first WBC title. And the last time it was played, in 2017, Team USA won for the first time.

Anything else?

Visit our WBC home base for up-to-date stories throughout the tournament.

Follow all the action by checking out our live blog.

And to set the tone for the next two weeks, here’s a playlist of artists representing every nation in the 2023 WBC – we hope you enjoy it.

(Top photo of Shohei Ohtani: Kenta Harada/Getty Images)

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