On Saturday, 10 August, will open in Irvine, California, USA, the U-19 Women’s Softball World Cup, the highest youth international competition in our sport. The top 16 teams in the world will compete at Bill Barber Memorial Park, For the Title of World Champion.
The teams were divided into four groups:
- Group A: USA (1), Mexico (5), Czech Republic (15), Botswana (43).
- Group B: Japan (2), Australia (7), Italy (9), South Africa (28).
- Group C: Puerto Rico (4), China (8), Brazil (14), Ireland (22).
- Group D: Canada (3), Chinese Taipei (6), Netherlands (10), New Zealand (11).
After the 3-day Opening Round, the top two teams in each group will advance to the Super Round. Nations finishing third and fourth place in the Opening Round will play the Placement Round.
The host team and two-time defending world champion USA is the favourite to claim Group A’s top spot. The number 1 team in the world has participated in all 12 previous editions of this event, claiming the title in six times(1987, 1995, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2017), the last two in a row. In July the USA Junior National Team participated in the International Cup, finishing third place (only behind the top two ranked nations in the world: USA and Japan). The host team is looking for an unprecedented three-peat in this age category.
For Mexico, it will be the seventh appearance in this event (1981, 1985, 1987, 2013, 2015, 2017). In Clearwater 2017 they finished ninth place, while their best position ever was the fifth place in 2015, in Oklahoma City.
Czech Republic arrives in Irvine as the third place in the European Championship 2018. A 12-8 victory over the Netherlands gave them the automatic qualification to the U-19 World Cup. This is their eighth participation in the tournament (1991, 1999, 2003, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017), and they are coming from their best performance ever: the eighth place in Clearwater 2017, where they made the playoffs for the first time. They will look to repeat this year in Irvine.
After six years of absence, Botswana is back at the U-19 World Cup for their fourth participation ever. The African nation is still looking for their first-ever win in this event since their only three participation (2007, 2011 and 2013) ended with a 0-7 record.
Group A Schedule
A five-time world champion, Japan heads to Irvine to recover the world crown six years after their last title. The Asian champion has played 11 of the 12 World Championship Games, including the last nine in a row. Japan claimed the title in 1981, 1991, 1999, 2003 and 2013, but never could win in US soil. They have won a medal in every U-19 World Cup.
Australia has also participated in the 12 previous editions of this event and will try to make the final for the first time ever. The team from Oceania has collected four bronze medals (1995, 2003, 2007, 2013) but never advanced to the final game. In Clearwater 2017 Australia finished seventh place.
Italy arrives as the European Champion, looking to advance to the World Cup playoffs for the first time ever. It’s their eighth participation in the competition (1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2007, 2015, 2017), finishing ninth place three times.
South Africa will make its fourth appearance in the tournament, looking for their third win ever. The best position for the African team was the 13th place in 2011 when they hosted the tournament. In 2017 South Africa ended 23rd with a 1-6 record.
Group B Schedule
Puerto Rico has participated in the last five World Cups (2007, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017), and is vying for the third consecutive podium, after earning back to back bronze medals in 2015 and 2017.
China has played all the 12 previous editions of this event, winning it all in 1985 in North Dakota, USA. However, after being in the podium the first three editions of the U-19 World Cup, they couldn’t earn a medal in the last nine tournaments. Their main goal is to return to the top three in the standings. They finished third at the Asian Championship last year, behind Japan and Chinese Taipei.
Brazil is making its sixth appearance in the World Cup; the South American team has made the playoffs twice in 2011 and 2013, finishing seventh both times. In 2017 Brazil ended 13th place with an even record of 4-4.
It will be the second consecutive World Cup for Ireland, who made its first appearance in 2017 in Clearwater, finishing 18th with a 3-5 record. Last year Ireland finished runner up in the European Championship and qualified to Irvine.
Group C Schedule
Canada has participated in every U-19 World Cup, but have never won a medal in this competition. Their best finish has been a fourth place, including the last two editions of this tournament (1981, 2015 and 2017). The last two times Canada lost to Puerto Rico the chance to reach a medal.
Chinese Taipei has clinched two bronze medals in history, in 1999 (as host) and 2011. It will be the 12nd appearance of the team in the U-19 World Cup; they only missed the event in 2013 in Brampton, Canada. In 2017 the ended fifth place, with a global record of 6-2.
Netherlands received the wild card to participate in the World Cup, in spite of finishing fourth place in the European Championship, losing to Czech Republic the bronze medal game. It will be the 11th participation of the orange team in this World Cup, and their best finish has been a sixth place, three times: 1985, 1987 and 2007 as host. In the last World Cup, Netherlands finished 14th.
It will be the 11th consecutive appearance in the U-19 World Cup for New Zealand, who finished fourth place in 2013 in Canada, their best performance ever. In 2017 they finished 16th with a 2-4 record.
Group D Schedule