World baseball federation announces qualification system for Tokyo 2020

TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 11: Designated hitter Shohei Ohtani #16 of Japan flies out in the sixth inning during the international friendly match between Mexico and Japan at the Tokyo Dome on November 11, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)

Switzerland-based World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), the international baseball governing body, has announced the sport’s qualification system for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

WBSC said the first opportunity to qualify for the six-team Olympic baseball tournament will come up at the 2019 Premier 12, which is its flagship event.

It said the top finisher from the Americas and the top country from the Asia/Oceania region, excluding Olympic host Japan, will earn direct entries into Tokyo 2020.

The Premier 12 will be open to the top 12 nations in the final 2018 WBSC world rankings.

South Korea is the most recent Olympic baseball champion, having won gold at Beijing 2008.

The sport was not contested at two subsequent Olympics, in London and in Rio de Janeiro, but has made its way back to the Summer Games for 2020.

South Korea also won the inaugural Premier 12 in 2015.

The WBSC will also organise qualifiers for Africa/Europe and the Americas.

Its inter-continental qualifier, featuring six teams, will be the final opportunity for countries to book their spots at Tokyo 2020.

The participants in this one will include the runner-up from the Africa/Europe qualifier, and the second- and third-place finishers from the Americas qualifier.

Others are the two best finishers from the 2019 Asian Championship who haven’t already qualified for the Olympics, and the winner of the Oceania qualifier.

The WBSC said each Olympic baseball team will feature 24 players.

Also, the players must be at least 18 years old to compete in any of the qualification events and in the Olympic tournament.