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Pools, venues set for '13 Classic preliminaries

The preliminary field and venues for the qualifying round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic have been named, providing a handy breakdown of the world-class tourney to come.

Four sites -- one each in Germany, Panama, Taiwan and Florida -- will host the preliminary round of the tourney, and the winner of each group will progress to the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Twelve teams have already qualified for the tournament, and four more will join the expanded field.

The first World Baseball Classic was held in 2006, and the second took place three years later. The third World Baseball Classic will be played in March 2013, and Paul Archey, MLB's senior vice president of international business operations, is pleased with the global impact of the tourney.

"We are excited to expand the scope of the World Baseball Classic and maintain our commitment to global baseball development," said Archey of the preliminary round. "We are very pleased with the level of interest from venues and organizers around the world who share our enthusiasm for the World Baseball Classic and its mission of celebrating the global nature of our game."

The qualifying round will help push the total number of nations involved to 28, and the qualifiers will feature a six-game modified double-elimination tournament. Each regional pool was determined after venues were selected, and weight was given to competitive balance and existing rivalries.

Four of the teams in the qualifying round -- Canada, Chinese Taipei, Panama and South Africa -- participated in the 2009 World Baseball Classic but did not win a game.

The other 12 teams from the 2009 World Baseball Classic -- Australia, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela -- will be included in 2013 based on their performance last time.

Ian Penny, assistant general counsel for the Major League Baseball Players Association, said that one of the great things about the tournament is the fact that it's expanding.

"We are pleased to have 12 new countries participating in the World Baseball Classic," he said. "We're confident the qualifiers will further expand the international popularity of the game we all love. We thank all participating nations for their commitment to the World Baseball Classic and the qualifier host locations and organizers for their passion and interest in the game of baseball."

The first two groups of qualifiers will take place in September. France, Israel, South Africa and Spain will play in Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. from Sept. 19-23, while Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany and Great Britain will play in Regensburg, Germany's Armin-Wolf Baseball Arena from Sept. 20-24.

The next two groups will play in November. In Panama City, Panama from Nov. 14-18 will feature the host nation, Colombia, Nicaragua and soccer power but baseball neophyte Brazil. The final group, based in Taipei, Taiwan, will pit Chinese Taipei, New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines from Nov. 15-18.

Riccardo Fraccari, president of the International Baseball Federation, thinks that the extra round of qualifications will ultimately lead to a deeper and more inclusive tournament.

"The implementation of this qualification system into the World Baseball Classic framework is a true sign of the strong collaboration between the IBAF and our colleagues at Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association," said Fraccari.

"We are very encouraged about the inclusion of emerging baseball territories and the continual growth of the international baseball landscape that this represents."