UPDATE: IBAF Rebrands World Cup As 21U Tournament

DALLAS—The International Baseball Federation held its congress in Dallas in advance of the Winter Meetings, announcing significant changes to the international baseball schedule.

Among the changes announced was the formal announcement that the title of 'world champion,' which the IBAF must designate as part of its charter, will now go to the winner of the World Baseball Classic. IBAF president Riccardo Fraccari also announced that Major League Baseball is launching the 18-and-under version of the Classic, which will replace IBAF's 18U World Junior Championship. The last IBAF 18U tournament will be held in 2012.

IBAF also announced two new events, one of which has been reported on previously. The top 12 finishers in the 2013 WBC will line up in 2015 for the Super 12 (previously reported as the Premier 12). In addition, IBAF announced a rebranding of the baseball World Cup, which starting in 2014 will be limited to players 21 and under. The 21U World Cup likely will become the premier tournament for USA Baseball's College National Team in the future, replacing the FISU World University Games, where the age limit is 27.

Another significant change drops the age limit for the Youth level championship from 16 to 15, so instead of having tournaments at the 12U, 14U, 16U and 18U levels, IBAF will sponsor events at ages 12, 15 and 18 going forward. Each continental governing body can still use the old 12-14-16-18 designations but at the world championship level, there will be just two tournaments for amateur players instead of three. (The 18U tournament run by MLB as the World Baseball Classic "Junior" is expected to be open to professionals.)

USA Baseball CEO Paul Seiler said he wanted more time for him and his staff to digest the changes before commenting.

The IBAF schedule also should be more regular going forward, with the WBC and the Super 12 played every four years (2013, 2017, etc. for the WBC, and 2015, 2019 and so forth for the Super 12). Other IBAF events will be played every other year.

"We still have to work on eligibility criteria and we need to be careful in finding the right dates for every tournament, but it is a huge step forward," Fraccari said in a press release.
IBAF also announced an agreement by the International Softball Federation to present a joint bid to re-enter the Olympics, with a goal of 2020 as the first Games where the diamond sports would return. Previously, softball had distanced itself from baseball and separated its reinstatement bid, and ISF president Don Porter has been critical of baseball's lack of major leaguers in past Olympics as well of its doping issues.