15 days To Go! WBSC Americas Baseball Olympic Qualifier preview

15 days To Go! WBSC Americas Baseball Olympic Qualifier preview
The eight-team event will be held from 22-26 March at Surprise Stadium and Tempe Diablo Stadium in Arizona, USA.

With just 15 days left to the opening day of the WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier, eight teams will battle through five days to earn an Olympic ticket to Tokyo 2020. World No. 2 USA will host No. 8 Cuba, No. 9 Venezuela, No. 10 Dominican Republic, No. 11 Puerto Rico, No. 12 Canada, No. 14 Colombia and No. 15 Nicaragua, with one nation moving on to the Olympics.

The eight teams have been drawn into two groups. USA will lead Group A and will face the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Nicaragua. Group B features Cuba, Venezuela, Canada and Colombia.

The 12-game Opening Round will be played from 22-24 March, and the top two teams of each group will advance to the Super Round carrying the result of the game played between each other. The top National Team in the tournament final standings will gain a berth for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Second and third place will have a last Olympic chance in the Final Qualifier, to be held from 17-21 June in Taichung and Douliu, Taiwan. They will face World No. 4 Chinese Taipei, No. 6 Australia, No. 8 Netherlands and No. 20 China for the final spot in the Olympic Games.

Group A

USA: The host team will land in Arizona as the top-ranked team in the competition. The world No. 2 team in the world rankings lost to Mexico, 3-2 in 10 innings, in the WBSC Premier12 2019 Bronze Medal Game and with that the direct ticket to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Three-time Olympic Medallists (Gold in Sydney 2000; Bronzes in Atlanta 1996 and Beijing 2008), USA will try to earn their fifth Olympic qualification in history. They only missed the Athens 2004 Games, losing a tie-breaker against Mexico in Panama City. They are second place in the overall Olympic Baseball medal table, only behind Cuba. USA beat Cuba in the Sydney 2000 Games gold medal game by a score of 4-0, with a complete-game shutout by future MLB All-Star, Ben Sheets. 

Dominican Republic: The Dominican Republic will play the Baseball Americas Qualifier after a seventh-place finish in the Premier12 2019. The Caribbean team finished third in Group A (1-2 win-loss record), in Guadalajara, Mexico, and didn’t make the Super Round. They have only qualified once for the Olympic Games, in the inaugural baseball event in Barcelona 1992, where they finished in the sixth place, with wins over the European representatives Italy (7-5) and Spain (11-2). They also participated in the exhibition tournament at the Los Angeles 1984 Games.

Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico finished winless in the Premier12 after a disappointing 0-3 record in Group B, sharing the last place in the overall final standings with Cuba and the Netherlands. They only participated in the Olympic Games in 1992 in Barcelona, ending in the fifth place (2-5) with victories over the Dominican Republic (7-5) and Italy (2-0).

Nicaragua: Nicaragua aims to advance to the Olympic Games for the second time in history. They played in Atlanta 1996 and ended in the fourth position. The Central American nation finished the round robin in fourth place (4-3 record), losing the semi-finals against Cuba, 8-1, and the Bronze Medal Game to USA, 10-3. They qualified for the WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier with a Bronze Medal performance in the Pan American Games Lima 2019.

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Group B

Cuba: Cuba leads the all-time Olympic medal table with five, including three golds and two silvers. They have played in all five Olympic Games finals. In baseball’s Olympic debut, Cuba went undefeated to win the Gold Medal in Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996, beating Chinese Taipei, 11-1, and Japan, 13-9, respectively. Cuba earned the Silver medal in Sydney, with their first-ever loss in the Olympic Games at hands of the Netherlands; they lost the final against USA, 4-0. They bounced back in Athens 2004 with a win over Australia in the final, 6-2; and in 2008 they lost the Gold Medal to Korea by a score of 3-2. The Caribbean team finished the Premier12 2019 in 10th place.

Venezuela: Venezuela has never participated in baseball at the Olympic Games. As world No. 9, Venezuela qualified for the Premier12 2019, where they finished in the third position in Group B. They beat Puerto Rico in the Opening Round, but lost to Japan and Chinese Taipei, ending their Premier12 in the opening round.. 

Canada: Canada has played the last two Olympic Baseball competitions, in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. In their debut, they advanced to the semifinal of the event, posting a 5-2 win-loss record in the round robin. However, they lost back to back games against Cuba (8-5) and Japan (11-2) to finish in fourth place, outside of the podium positions. Four years later, in 2008, Canada finished sixth place with a 2-5 record. In the Premier12 2019, they finished in a three-way tie with Australia and Cuba for second place in Group C, but they were knocked out of the tournament based on the tie-breaker rules. They finished the Premier12 in seventh position.

Colombia: Colombia will try to advance to the Olympic Games baseball competition for the first time in history. Ranked No. 14 in the world, the South American nation will play the WBSC Americas Baseball Qualifier thanks to the fourth-place finish at the Pan American Games Lima 2019; they finished second in Group B, with wins over Cuba and Argentina, and third in the Super Round. However, they lost to Nicaragua the bronze medal game.