WBSC revamps softball strategy ahead of Olympic return

The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) has launched its new Softball World Cup brand identity and tournament system in a major restructuring of the sport’s leading international competitions.

The Softball World Cup will replace the current Softball World Championships across all categories: men’s, women’s, U19 men’s and U19 women’s. The decision to rebrand the competitions was taken during the WBSC Softball Division board meeting in the Italian capital of Rome.

The changes have been made ahead of baseball and softball’s return to the summer Olympic Games programme for Tokyo 2020 after an absence of 12 years.

“This new Softball World Cup brand and tournament structure – with continental qualifiers – will be an exciting showcase of the best softball athletes and countries in the world,” WBSC president Riccardo Fraccari (pictured) said. “The new Softball World Cups will boost our long-term Olympic potential and help our mission to grow a one-billion global baseball/softball community over the next decade.”

The new Softball World Cups will be played every two years and feature 16-team tournament formats for men’s, women’s and U19 women’s categories; a 12-team tournament format for the U19 men’s category; and continental qualifiers.

In 16-team tournaments, Africa will receive two places, the Americas will receive five, Asia will receive three, Europe will receive three, Oceania will be given two, and one wild card spot will be allocated.

In 12-team tournaments, each region will be granted one fewer place than they are in 16-team competitions, with the exception of Oceania, which will still be given two spots. Twelve-team tournaments will also allocate a wild card spot. The changes will also see the junior category renamed as U19.

The final Women’s Softball World Championship will be held in Chiba, Japan later this year before the World Cup launches in 2021. Thereafter, the tournament will be played in the year before and after the summer OIympics.

The next edition of the U19 women’s category will continue as planned in 2019 before shifting to even years in 2020. It will be staged in the year prior to and after the Women’s Softball World Cup.

The final edition of the Junior Men’s Softball World Championship will take place later this year in Prince Albert, Canada. The U19 Men’s Softball World Cup will then launch in 2021 and be played every two years.

The next two editions of the men’s category will be played in 2019 and 2021, before shifting to even years from 2022.

WBSC Softball Division president Tommy Velazquez added: "The Softball World Cup platform will be positioned to realise maximum global broadcast, commercial and audience growth – providing increased prestige, visibility and attraction to the sport and the elite athletes who dedicate their lives practicing it. This Softball World Cup system with qualifiers will also raise the value and marketability of our continental associations and their competitions."