2020: U-18 Men’s Softball World Cup - New Zealand to open historic 2020 WBSC season

2020: U-18 Men’s Softball World Cup - New Zealand to open historic 2020 WBSC season
02/01/2020
The WBSC U-18 Men’s Softball World Cup will open in February another blockbuster season of events for the WBSC, highlighted by the historic return of baseball and softball to the Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020.

The WBSC U-18 Men’s Softball World Cup will be celebrated in Palmerston North, New Zealand from 22 February to 1 March 2020 with the most important event in the world for this age group showcasing the top 12 teams in the world battling for nine days For the Title of World Champion.

This will be the first U-18 tournament for softball, after changes were made last year to the WBSC Softball World Cups. This event replaces the Junior Men’s Softball World Championship (U-19), held for the last time in Prince Albert, Canada, in 2018.

Since the first edition of the Junior Men’s Softball World Championship in 1981 in Edmonton, Canada, a total of 12 tournaments have been played. Only five countries have been crowned world champion in this category: Australia (5), Argentina (2), Japan (2), New Zealand (2) and Canada (1).

Palmerston North will be the second New Zealand city to host this event after Auckland received the softball world in 1991.

The U-18 Men’s Softball World Cup will be played at Colquhoun Park, where the facilities are being renovated for the global battle, including an upgrade of the changing rooms with more bathrooms and a new deck extending from the clubrooms, as well as an overhaul of the main diamond and a renovation of the second field. The world-class facility will be part of the material legacy of the tournament to the Manawatu softball community.

Individual daily tickets and tournament passes are already available and can be purchased through the international online ticketing service, Ticket Rocket.

For the first time in history teams from around the world qualified for the Youth Men’s Softball World Cup through continental qualifiers. It was possible because of the reduction of participating teams from 16 to 12 and encouraged continental competition by involving more countries in the qualification process. A total of 19 nations competed for a spot in the World Cup at the continental level.

The first qualifier was held in Skudai, Johor Bahru, Malaysia, in September last year, with six teams competing in the U-17 Men’s Softball Asian Cup. Japan secured its place in the World Cup defeating Singapore 12-0 in the first semifinal of the page-system playoff; while Singapore had to beat India in the second semifinal, 8-1, to seal their ticket to Palmerston North. The Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia completed the standings, outside the podium.

Japan has participated in all 12 Junior Men’s Softball World Championships, winning the tournament twice in 1981 and 2016. In Prince Albert 2018 they finished in second place, losing to Australia in the World Championship game.

Singapore will participate for only the third time having been absent for the past three editions. Their two previous appearances were in 2012 in Parana, Argentina and 2014 in Whitehorse, Canada. 

Four European National Teams gathered in Gezer, Israel, to play for two tickets to New Zealand in February’s World Cup. The Czech Republic and Denmark finished first and second respectively at the U-18 Men’s Softball European Qualifier and advanced to the World Cup.

The Czech Republic, who went undefeated to win the double round robin tournament and become the third National Team to qualify for New Zealand, defeated Denmark, Israel and Great Britain twice to clinch first place. In the final game of the event, Denmark beat hosts Israel 7-3 to seal the second European spot in the World Cup.

The Czech Republic will make their ninth appearance in the youth world cup; they played for the first time in 1997 with a 10th place finish, being the first European team to ever play in this event. They have made the playoffs in back to back World Cups.

Denmark, meanwhile, is coming off a disappointing last-place finish in 2018 in what will be their seventh participation in the youth event.

In November, Guatemala hosted the biggest qualifier for the U-18 Men’s Softball World Cup with seven teams from the Americas competing for four places. Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Guatemala clinched the top four spots and advanced directly to Palmerston North. Fifth placed USA was awarded a wild card. Panama and Belize completed the field of teams.

Canada has been present in every edition of the Junior Men’s Softball World Championship, replaced now by the U-18 World Cup. Champion in 1993, Canada finished in fourth place in 2018 in Prince Albert as the host team.

Mexico will play its 12th Youth Men’s Softball World Cup. They will try to win a medal for the second time in history after winning the bronze medal in 1981. In Prince Albert, Mexico made the playoffs, beat the Czech Republic 4-2 and then was eliminated by New Zealand by a score of 8-0.

For Argentina it will be its 12th appearance in the youth event. The South American nation won back to back titles in 2012 and 2014, and has finished in the top five in the last four editions, sowing the seeds for the success of it's senior team in the World Championships in the Czech Republic last year.

Guatemala will play its second Youth World Cup after their historic debut in 2018 in Prince Albert, Canada. The Central American nation finished in 11th position, with a 2-6 record.

Another country to have played in every edition, USA played the first two finals of the Junior World Championship in 1981 and 1985, losing both against Japan and New Zealand respectively. After that, they have never reached the podium again. In 2018 they finished in eighth place.

South Africa will represent the African Continent in the WBSC U-18 Men’s Softball World Cup after sweeping Nigeria in a three-game series and will participate for the fifth time in the global event, their third in a row. Their best performance was on debut in 1997 when they finished sixth. In Prince Albert 2018, they finished 10th.

The field of teams is completed by the two representatives from Oceania, both medallists in 2018 in Prince Albert: hosts New Zealand (bronze medallists) and the defending champions Australia.

Two-time Junior Men’s Softball world champions New Zealand have played in six finals, winning back to back titles in 1985 and 1989. The last of their second-place finishes was four years ago, in Midland 2016, losing the grand finale against Japan by a score of 2-1. They will try to win this tournament again 31 years after their last victory. In Prince Albert they finished with the bronze medal.

Australia didn’t play in the first three editions of this event, so it will be their 10th consecutive appearance in the Junior World Cup. They have won the tournament five times, four in a row (1997, 2001, 2005 and 2008) and the last edition in 2018, making them the most decorated program in the world.

The 12 teams have been allocated into two six-team groups for the Opening Round. Australia will be seeded in Group A, along with Canada, Argentina, Czech Republic, 12 South Africa and Singapore. Group A includes host New Zealand, Japan, USA, Mexico, Denmark and Guatemala.

The top three teams of each group after the Opening Round will advance to the Super Round, where the first four teams in the standings will play the finals: the top two the championship game, while third and fourth will play for the bronze medal.