The 2023 World Baseball Classic wrapped up Tuesday night, with Japan winning its third championship in competition history and Shohei Ohtani taking home MVP honors. Japan has won three of the five WBCs since the event started in 2006, and the country won't have to wait too long to defend its title. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed ahead of the championship game that the next WBC will take place in 2026 -- or 20 years after the tournament was first introduced to the scene.
"Maybe the best testimony to it, after the unfortunate injury [Edwin] Díaz had, how the players came out & spoke in support of the tournament," Manfred told reporters, including James Wagner of the New York Times. "It's an indication that they really, really care."
The WBC is generally held every four years. The global pandemic caused the tournament to take an extended absence, with six years passing between events. It's to be seen if, after the 2026 edition, MLB and the WBC resume to an every-four-years cadence, or if they elect to hold the tournament more often.
While we won't know details about where the pools will be played or who will be in them for some time, we do know that 16 teams have automatically qualified for the 2026 WBC based on their play in this tournament. Only the last-place finishers in each pool will have to attempt to re-qualify. Those four teams are Chinese Taipei, China, Colombia, and Nicaragua.
As for those 16 teams who have qualified, let's print them in list form (do note that the teams are presented in no particular order):
- United States
- Czech Republic
- Great Britain
- Puerto Rico
- Dominican Republic