Feature | Baseball

All you need to know about the WBSC Premier12

Tokyo 2020 qualifying spots are up for grabs as the WBSC's premier competition begins in Mexico with the final taking place in Tokyo

By Sam Friedman and ZK Goh ·

Baseball is back at the Olympics next year and the blue-riband event on the World Baseball Softball Confederation calendar - the Premier12 - will serve as an Olympic qualifier for the first time.

The top 12 teams on the WBSC's 2018 year-end world rankings will play 32 games across four countries and two continents from 2–17 November.

Two Tokyo 2020 spots are on offer alongside the coveted world title, although no Major League Baseball (MLB) players will be taking part in the competition.

This is the second Premier12 tournament with South Korea winning the first in 2015.

This competition should not be confused with the World Baseball Classic which is jointly-sanctioned by the WBSC and MLB and does feature major league players.

Subject to territorial restrictions, selected games from the Premier12 will be streamed live on the Olympic Channel.

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Premier12 format and who to watch

The 12 teams taking part have been split into three groups of four teams.

Zapopan's Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico stages Group A games from 2–5 November, featuring the hosts alongside the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, and USA.

Team USA manager Scott Brosius and his players told the Olympic Channel that they're expecting a tough test.

The U.S. squad is made up mostly of young Major League prospects, although there are a few MLB veterans.

Recently-crowned Asia champions Chinese Taipei are the host team in Group B, with Japan, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela playing in Taichung and Taoyuan from 5–7 November.

Group C will take place in the Gocheok Sky Dome in the South Korean capital Seoul from 6–8 November with Australia, Canada, and Cuba up against the defending champions.

Each team will play each other once in this stage, after which the top two per group qualify for the Super Round.

This six-team Super Round will be played in Chiba and Tokyo, Japan with each side playing four further games before the medal playoffs.

In the last Premier12, Japanese pitcher Shohei Ohtani caught the world's attention and landed with a move to MLB side the Los Angeles Angels.

While that rules Ohtani out of this tournament, don't bet against a future big league star being found here.

Future Los Angeles Angel Shohei Ohtani pitches for Japan in the 2015 Premier12 semi-final against South Korea

Olympic qualification

Of the Premier12 competing teams, 10 will be eligible to secure a spot in the six-team tournament at Tokyo 2020.

The top finisher from the Americas (Mexico, USA, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Cuba, Canada) will earn one spot with the top team from Asia/Oceania other than Japan earning the other.

Japan are already guaranteed a spot in Tokyo as the host nation.

The defending 2008 Olympic champions and 2015 Premier12 champions, South Korea, will need to finish above Asia champions Chinese Taipei and Australia to secure the automatic spot for Asia/Oceania.

If none of the three makes the Super Round, this spot will be decided at the WBSC final Olympic Qualifier to be held in Taichung, Chinese Taipei in April 2020.

The Netherlands were second in the Africa/Europe qualifiers behind Israel who qualified directly for the Olympics.

No matter how they fare in the Premier12, the Dutch will have to try and win their spot at Tokyo in the Taichung qualifying event.

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Contenders in the Americas

With no Major League Baseball player currently on a 40-man roster eligible to play in the Premier12, the world will get a chance to see a mix of top young prospects as well as international stars.

This holds true for Team USA who are bringing some of MLB’s brightest future stars, including the league's fifth-best prospect, 20-year-old outfielder Jo Adell of the Los Angeles Angels.

As the most decorated team in Olympic baseball history with three golds and two silvers, Cuba will hope to live up to their storied past.

But there is talent in depth across all the squads from the Americas, and none can be ruled out in the fight for the one automatic spot.

The six teams from the region that do not qualify for Tokyo via the Premier12 will join Colombia and Nicaragua in an eight-team Americas Qualifier in Arizona in March 2020.

The winner of that tournament will secure the fifth qualifying spot for Tokyo 2020 with the second and third going to Taichung for the final Olympic qualifier.

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Premier12 tickets, schedule, and live stream

Tickets are still available from the WBSC site for all rounds.

2 November: Netherlands v USA, Dominican Republic v Mexico

3 November: Dominican Republic v Netherlands, Mexico v USA

4 November: USA v Dominican Republic

5 November: Netherlands v Mexico, Venezuela v Japan, Puerto Rico v Chinese Taipei

6 November: Puerto Rico v Japan, Chinese Taipei v Venezuela, Canada v Cuba, Australia v South Korea

7 November: Venezuela v Puerto Rico, Japan v Chinese Taipei, Australia v Cuba, South Korea v Canada

8 November: Canada v Australia, Cuba v South Korea

11 November: Three Super Round games

12 November: Three Super Round games

13 November: Two Super Round games

14 November: Any re-scheduled games

15 November: Two Super Round games

16 November: Two Super Round games

17 November: Bronze-medal game (12:00 Japan standard time) and Championship final (19:00 Japan standard time)

Subject to territorial restrictions, selected games from the Premier12 will be streamed live on the Olympic Channel.