As MLB and the MLBPA work to figure out a plan for 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic is already forcing events to be canceled in 2021. According to Enrique Rojas of ESPN, the 2021 World Baseball Classic will not be held as scheduled. The tournament was set to expand to a record 20 teams and be held in three countries (Japan, Taiwan, United States) from March 9-23 next year.

"The tournament was canceled. It is not the priority right now," a source told Rojas.

The WBC is a collectively bargained event that requires approval from MLB and the MLBPA. Because the MLB season is the priority, and because the current collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021, Rojas reports the WBC may not return until 2023. There are more pressing matters to handle first. Joel Sherman of the New York Post adds that the event will be pushed to 2023 pending board approval.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed until next summer because of the pandemic. Baseball and softball were scheduled to return to the Olympics this year following a 12-year hiatus. Two major global tournaments in one year may not be feasible not only for MLB, but professional leagues in Asia and elsewhere in the world as well.

Sixteen teams had already secured a berth in the 2021 WBC: Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States, and Venezuela. 

A qualifying event scheduled to be played in Arizona in March was postponed due to the pandemic. Brazil, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, Panama, Philippines, Nicaragua, Pakistan, South Africa, and Spain were among the teams vying for spots.

The WBC showcases the top talent in the world in a best-on-best tournament and is part of MLB's efforts to grow the game globally. Japan won the 2006 and 2009 events before the Dominican Republic won the 2013 title. The United States beat Puerto Rico in the 2017 WBC. Marcus Stroman, Team USA's ace in 2017, was already recruiting players for 2021.