According to the Nicaraguan website BeisbolNic, the group of the first WBC Qualifier has been revealed by MLB. The first Qualifier will take place in Tucson Arizona, at the former spring training facility of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Chicago White Sox from March 12-17.
The countries in that first qualifier will be:
In the past weeks, rumors floated around about the teams that were in this first qualifier and about the format that would be used. According to several global news outlets Panama, the Czech Republic, France, Great Britain, Pakistan, and Spain would be in the first qualifier but apparently some changes have been made.
The schedule is as follows:
Odd thing is that Nicaragua and South Africa do not play even though they are not scheduled on the first day. According to several news outlets, there would be a round robin format but when you look at the schedule above, it is still a kind of double elimination format. Anyhow, the two teams that finish on top will advance to the main tournament in 2021.
With the teams of the first qualifier known, we automatically know the six teams of the second qualifier that will take place at the same facility one week later:
The schedule of that group is not known yet. For each country it will be hard to get the strongest possible team. Many countries, except for the Czech Republic, Philippines and Pakistan are relying on several, if not quite some, minor leaguers. The Czech Republic may have Martin Cervenka in its ranks but that remains to be seen as he, like all other minor leaguers, will fight for a spot in the minor league system of his organization.
In the past weeks, news about the expansion of the 2021 World Baseball Classic was announced. Next to the teams that made it to the second round in 2017 (Australia, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, South Korea, the USA, and Venezuela), four teams of the qualifiers will be added. This makes sixteen teams. You may wonder what may have happened to Canada, Mexico, China and Taiwan, that didn’t make it past the first round. As these countries do not appear at the qualifiers, it is likely that they will be added to the field of contestants so the number of teams will be twenty.
If the countries can use their minor leaguers, Spain, Nicaragua, Panama and Brazil may be regarded as the favorites to gain a spot in the main tournament.