Making sense of the WBC format: Canada win would help Team USA

PHOENIX -- The format of the World Baseball Classic is a little complicated.

No, it's a lot complicated, so complicated that it's yet another barrier towards getting the casual fan interested.

Team USA is playing three games in Phoenix this weekend. The Americans lost 5-2 to Mexico on Friday night, and will play Italy Saturday night and Canada Sunday afternoon.

At this point, it's still possible they could win both those games and not advance to the second round in Miami. At this point, it's also still possible that they could split the two games and still advance.

Got that?

Here's the simplest way to put things, as they stood entering play Saturday:

Canada (0-1) is currently playing Mexico (1-1), in a game that began at 2:38 p.m. ET Saturday. A Canada win would be the best result for Team USA, because it would mean the Americans could qualify for Miami simply by winning the two remaining games, without any worry about tie-breakers.

A Canada win would also mean Team USA wouldn't be eliminated with a loss to Italy tonight. If Canada wins, it's still possible that three teams could finish 1-2 (USA, Canada, Mexico), and then the tie-breaker would come into play.

If Mexico wins, then two teams (Mexico and Italy) would already have two wins. Team USA's only route to Miami would be to win two games and also hold the tie-breaker against either Mexico or Italy.

What is that tie-breaker? It's basically the run differential, but only among the three teams that are tied. If necessary, we'll get deeper into that later.

At this point, just know that Team USA benefits from a Canada win over Mexico.

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