With two qualifiers in the books, the World Baseball Classic has two more qualifying tournaments to play in November before setting its final 16-team field. Where those 16 clubs will play also has been finalized.
In a press release Tuesday, World Baseball Classic Inc., announced WBC first-round four-team pools will be held in Japan, Puerto Rico and Taiwan in addition to Phoenix. The second round of the tournament will be held at Marlins Park in Miami and in Tokyo, while the finals will be held in San Francisco's AT&T Park.
The most eyebrow-raising news was a "group of death," to use soccer World Cup parlance, in the Pool A, which will feature two-time WBC winner Japan together with Cuba, China and the winner of the qualifiers. Two teams advance from each of the four four-team pools. The United States will be in Pool D at Chase Field/Salt River Fields in Phoenix, joined by Italy, Mexico and a qualifier.
Taiwan has yet to qualify, but Taichung's Intercontinental Stadium nonetheless will be a host for Pool B, featuring Australia, South Korea, 2011 World Cup champion Netherlands and a qualifier. Pool C in San Juan, Puerto Rico, includes the host plus the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and a qualifier.
Canada and Spain won qualifying tournaments earlier this week and are in, but none of the qualifying tournament winners have been assigned to a specific pool as of yet. The two remaining qualifiers in November feature Taiwan playing host to Thailand, Philippines and New Zealand; and host Panama, joined by Brazil, Colombia and Nicaragua.
The first round pools will be as follows:
Pool A: Fukuoka, Japan, Yahoo! Japan Dome: China, Cuba, Japan, Qualifier TBD. March 2-6.
Pool B: Taichung, Taiwan, Intercontinental Stadium: Australia, Netherlands, South Korea, Qualifier TBD. March 2-5.
Pool C: San Juan, P.R., Hiram Bithorn Stadium: Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Qualifier TBD. March 7-10.
Pool D: Phoenix, Chase Field/Salt River Fields: Italy, Mexico, United States, Qualifier TBD. March 7-10.
Pool 1: Tokyo Dome: Pool A and B winners and runners-up, March 8-12.
Pool 2: Marlins Park, Miami: Pool C and D winners and runners-up, March 12-16.
AT&T Park, San Francisco: Pool 1 & 2 winners and runners-up, March 17-19.
MLB announced provisional rosters will be announced Dec. 3 during the Winter Meetings in Nashville, and that tickets will go on sale that day at worldbaseballclassic.com.