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MLB eyes regular-season games in Europe

PHOENIX -- Fresh off another successful opening of its season in Tokyo, Major League Baseball is considering playing regular-season games in Europe, possibly at new facilities in London or Amsterdam, the sport's top international official said earlier this week.

The A's and Mariners just split a two-game series at the Tokyo Dome, marking the fourth time that the regular season has opened in Japan. MLB has also opened the season in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Monterrey, Mexico, and has been considering playing regular-season games in Europe for years.

"We've been talking about playing games in Europe for some time, and venues have been our biggest obstacle in getting that done," Paul Archey, MLB's vice president of international business operations, told this week in Tokyo. "Obviously, it makes sense for us to try to see if there's a way to play in London with the new stadium that they're building there, but there's also other locations in places that we've also been looking at and talking to.

"Certainly, there's a new facility being built in Amsterdam that could work. There's been some talk recently also about a new facility in Rome. So this isn't new. We want to play in Europe, and we just need to keep working at it and find a facility that can accommodate our game."

Next up for MLB internationally is the third World Baseball Classic, with an expanded qualifying round slated for September. Armin-Wolf-Baseball-Arena in Regensburg, Germany, was announced as one of the four venues to host the qualifying round, along with Panama, Taiwan and the U.S. It's the first time a Classic event will be staged in Europe. The venues for the remaining rounds of the tournament, scheduled for next March, have yet to be selected.

The Netherlands and Italy have long been the greatest baseball powers in Europe, and London has been placed on the MLB map now because of the construction of the new Olympic Stadium, which will host the Olympic Games this summer. A new $20 million stadium being built near Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam may also be an option.

"There haven't really been a lot of new advances," Archey said. "If there's anything new, it would be the stadium in Amsterdam that's being built, and we've had some discussions with them. They came over to New York to talk to us about it and expressed their interest in having games. And we're still in discussions with the Players Association about a five-year play plan and international play plan where we can go play in new markets. Europe is a place we want to play, and we'll continue to investigate the opportunities we think could possibly work."

MLB began playing regular-season games internationally from Aug. 15-18, 1996, when the Mets played a three-game series against the Padres in Monterrey. The Expos also played a number of "home" regular-season games in San Juan before moving from Montreal to Washington. Exhibition games have also been played more recently in Mexico City.