World Baseball Classic set to be postponed

The World Baseball Classic, the global showcase for the sport co-owned and run by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, will not hold its 2021 edition because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, according to multiple reports.

Next year’s edition of the tournament was set to conclude in March in Miami, Florida, at Marlins Park, home of MLB’s Miami Marlins. But initial qualifying rounds that were set to begin two months ago in Arizona were not able to be held due to the public health crisis, and ongoing international travel restrictions to and from the US have continued to make it difficult to plan the event. 

A formal announcement of a postponement, likely to 2023, will occur after formal approval of the shift is made by the WBC board of directors, which in addition to MLB and the MLBPA includes representatives from Nippon Professional Baseball, the Korea Baseball Organization, and the World Baseball Softball Confederation. 

The 2021 WBC was to be the fifth iteration of the event. Japan won the first two versions in 2006 and 2009, respectively, followed by the Dominican Republic in 2013, and the US in 2017. An expansion from 16 to 20 participating teams was also planned for 2021, though it is not yet known whether that plan will carry over to a new date.

The WBC has become the premier international baseball tournament after the sport has been out of the regular Olympics rotation since 2008, in part due to long-running scheduling conflicts between MLB and the IOC. 

Baseball, however, will be played next summer at the rescheduled Tokyo Games as the sport is a core part of the culture of host nation Japan. 

The future of the WBC will also a subject of collective bargaining negotiations next year between MLB and the union, as their current five-year deal expires after the 2021 season.