The WBSC U-23 Baseball World Cup is the youngest of the WBSC’s baseball properties but arguably one of the most exciting with eight different teams having medalled with four different winners across its four editions to date.
Having started as a U-21 tournament in 2014 before changing to the U-23 age category in its second edition in 2014, the tournament has gone on to showcase the sport’s greatest talent with four different champions along the way – Chinese Taipei (2014), Japan (2016), Mexico (2018) and Venezuela (2020 – played in 2021).
Japan is the tournament’s only three-time medallist with two additional silvers (2014 and 2018) while Mexico (silver in the last edition) and Venezuela (bronze in 2018) are the only teams to have stood on the podium twice.
With eight different teams having collected a medal across four editions, it is one of the most competitive of tournaments, especially when looking at the other age groups: U-18 Baseball World Cup (seven medallists across 30 editions), U-15 Baseball World Cup (12 across 19 editions) and U-12 Baseball World Cup (seven across six editions editions).
The creation of the age-group tournament U-21 Baseball World Cup came about in the midst of the merger of the International Softball Federation (ISF) and the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) into a single International Federation – World Baseball Softball Confederation.
The IBAF discontinued the Baseball World Cup and agreed to assign the title of Baseball World Champions for the winners of the World Baseball Classic, and then launched its flagship event, the Premier12.
The U-21 Baseball World Cup was a response to the call of the majority for more opportunities to perform at the international level and the creation of a category that would serve as an intermediate between the U-18 and adult levels.
The lone U-21 Baseball World Cup, before its age-group expansion, attracted 11 national teams from four continents: The Americas (Nicaragua, Venezuela and Mexico), Asia (Chinese Taipei, Japan and Korea), Europe (Czech Republic, Italy and the Netherlands) and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand).
The first edition highlighted Chinese Taipei’s home victory over Japan in Taichung in the final. Korea claimed bronze with their win over Nicaragua.
The WBSC expanded the age bracket to U-23 for the second edition, which took place in Monterrey, Mexico in 2016.
Japan defeated Australia to earn the inaugural U-23 title, while Korea beat Panama to claim bronze.
The tournament had a total of 12 teams from five continents: Africa (South Africa), The Americas (Panama, Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Argentina), Asia (Japan, Korea and Chinese Taipei), Europe (Czech Republic and Austria) and Oceania (Australia).
The 2018 edition took international baseball back to Colombia. The cities of Barranquilla and Monteria hosted the two groups, with the former as home of the Super Round and the medal games.
Mexico earned its first-ever Baseball World Cup after their upset of defending champions Japan, then Venezuela made it to the podium for the first time with a bronze medal after their win over Korea.
The third edition in Colombia featured 12 teams again: Africa (South Africa), the Americas (Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Colombia and Puerto Rico), Asia (Japan, Korea and Chinese Taipei), Europe (Czechia and the Netherlands) and Oceania (Australia).
The WBSC postponed the 2020 edition due to the worldwide COVID-19 situation and was staged for the second time in Mexico in 2021 in Ciudad Obregon and Hermosillo, Sonora State.
Venezuela moved two places up in the podium and claimed their first U-23 world title at the expense of hosts and defending champions Mexico. Previous U-23 hosts Colombia beat Cuba for the bronze.
Teams from the Americas dominated the 2021 edition, with Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba and Panama claiming the first five places, respectively, and Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic finishing in seventh and ninth places.
Asian squads Chinese Taipei and Korea placed sixth and eighth, respectively, while European sides Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic occupied the remaining places in the final standings.
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