With a light day of action at the European Under-23 Baseball Championship, it is worth examining the newest competition to the European baseball scene. The U23 Championship replaces the U21 championship, last held in Tel Aviv in 2016 with only four teams, reflecting a change in WBSC structure and competitions. The Confederation of European Baseball, the governing body of the sport in Europe, explains in its ‘Competition Rules’ how all tournaments are structured, including the U23 Championship and qualification for future events.
With the merger of the governing bodies for world baseball and softball, the competition structure was changed, adding the Premier 12 and adding a U21 competition which shifted in 2016 to Under-23. Twelve teams took part in the first U23 World Cup in 2016, with Japan defeating Australia in the final, and [South] Korea claiming bronze. Though Austria and the Czech Republic represented Europe, this year is the first that Europe has held its own U23 Championship.
According to Baseball Europe’ Competition Rules, a tournament for the Under-23 age bracket will take place every two years, with the next in 2019. Players must be between 15 and 23 in the year the competition is played and it is a wood bat tournament. The document also described how nations will appear in U23 tournaments.
For the inaugural U23 Euros, all federations could submit a team, but the 2019 competition will have qualifying rounds (known for the senior national team championships as the ‘B-Pool’). The qualifying tournament for 2019 will be in 2018, and the teams that finish seventh to sixteenth in the current tournament will be placed in it.
The current championship is structured so the top two teams in each of the four pools advance to the quarterfinals. The third-ranked teams in each pool play form a new pool to determine rankings nine to twelve, while the fourth transition to a pool for positions No. 13-16.
With pool play finishing yesterday, we, therefore, already know eight of the 10 teams that will be in the 2018 U23 qualifier, with the site(s) yet to be determined. The 2018 qualifiers will include Austria, Belarus, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, and two other teams. Those two teams will come from the following quarter-finalists: Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, and Spain.
Meanwhile, tomorrow those eight teams square off to advance to the U23 European championship. As we moved closer to the first Under-23 champion of Europe being crowned, we will have much more coverage of the tournament @ExtraInningsUK.