For the first time in six years, the World Baseball Classic is back. The first thing to know is that this is baseball’s answer to the FIFA World Cup.

After that, well, there’s a lot to know.

For starters, this year’s tournament—which was originally slated for 2021, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic—is quite literally bigger than it’s ever been. Only 16 countries were represented in the first four World Baseball Classics in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2017. For 2023, the field has grown to 20 countries.

Three of the participants are newcomers, so Great Britain, the Czech Republic and Nicaragua deserve props simply on those merits. The other 17 clubs are what you might call the usual suspects, headlined by the World Baseball Classic’s three previous champions: Japan (2006 and 2009), the Dominican Republic (2013) and the United States (2017).

As for how the 2023 tournament will work, which are the teams to beat and who are the players to watch and, naturally, who will be crowned champion in the end, read on for our full preview and predictions.

Format and Rules


The tournament will begin with five teams in four different pools (A, B, C and D), wherein round-robin, double-elimination tournaments will decide who moves on. Within each pool, all five teams will play each other once.

The teams with the two best records will advance to the next round. There’s also a relegation system in play. The top four teams in each pool will automatically earn a spot in the next World Baseball Classic, while the team at the bottom will have to play in a qualifying tournament in order to earn its spot.

If two teams have the same record at the end of pool play, whoever won the head-to-head game between them will advance. If more than two teams have the same record, the following tiebreakers kick in:

  • Lowest quotient of runs allowed divided by the number of defensive outs recorded by in games between the tied teams.
  • Lowest quotient of earned runs allowed divided by the number of defensive outs recorded in games between the tied teams.
  • Highest batting average in games between the tied teams.
  • Drawing of lots.

The eight teams that survive pool play will slot into a single-elimination bracket. Win, and it’s on to the next round. Lose, and it’s over.


One major difference between Major League Baseball and the World Baseball Classic in 2023 is that the new regulations adopted by the former won’t be used in the latter. That means no pitch timer, no regulations on defensive shifts and no bigger bases.

Otherwise, these rules apply:

  • MLB-style replay review
  • Automatic runner on second base in extra innings
  • Three-batter minimum for pitchers
  • Universal designated hitter
  • No limitations on mound visits

There are limitations on pitcher usage, including pitch counts for each of the rounds. The cap is 65 pitches in pool play, followed by 80 in the quarterfinals and 95 in the championship round.

There are also mercy rules in play for the first round of the tournament. If a team is up 15 or more runs after the fifth inning or 10 or more runs after the seventh inning, that team will be declared the winner then and there.