Classic will return in 2026, Commissioner confirms

One superstar is already all in, wherever he's needed

March 22nd, 2023

MIAMI – The World Baseball Classic will take the global stage again in 2026, and players are already expressing their desire to compete in the next tournament. 

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced on Tuesday prior to the 2023 championship game between Team Japan and Team USA that the WBC will return in three years, as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement reached last March. 

Before players took the field at loanDepot park, they were already looking ahead to the next opportunity to vie for the worldwide title. 

“I already told them I’m doing the next one, so I’m already in,” Mike Trout said on the FOX Sports pregame broadcast. “If I’m DHing, playing left field, whatever they want, I’m in, I’m in. And I think that’s coming from all the guys, talking to them and just how proud we are wearing that across our chest. … In the ninth inning, hearing the ‘U-S-A’ chants, it’s special, man.”

The World Baseball Classic returned this month for the first time since 2017, when Team USA won the championship. Twenty countries participated in four pools of play that culminated in the single-elimination rounds in Miami. More than 300 Major Leaguers were included on the initial rosters. 

“Unbelievable,” said Manfred. “Maybe the best testimony to it, after the unfortunate injury [Edwin] Díaz had, how the players came out and spoke in support of the tournament. It’s an indication that they really, really care.”

Since its debut in 2006, the WBC has been held in March. Major League players report back to their respective Spring Trainings following the conclusion of the event, or when their team is eliminated.

“We have talked about timing until your head hurts,” said Manfred. “There’s just no perfect time. You can’t really do it after the playoffs because so many have [not been playing for a few weeks]. We have talked about something in the middle of the season. I think on balance, although it’s not perfect, this is probably the right place for it.”

Facets of the WBC will be reviewed and reevaluated after this tournament, including possible venues and the potential incorporation of recent MLB rule changes, such as the pitch timer and shift limits.

“I would expect, obviously got to work it through the Union and the other federations,” Manfred said. “The answer to that’s going to depend on where, for example, NPB and KBO are on their rules, how they’re playing. I think you’ve got to have an understanding that you’re going to play the tournament with a set of rules that everybody’s had an opportunity to play under, and that would be the ideal.” 

The first round of the tournament this year drew 1,010,999 attendees and set a WBC first-round attendance record. That was a 98 percent increase from 2017. The matchup between Japan and Italy on March 16 had a 48.0 rating in Japan, making it the most-watched WBC game ever in any country. 

“I don’t foresee or actually want the tournament to be bigger than our traditional format,” Manfred said. “The World Series is always going to be the World Series. But I don’t see it as an either-or proposition. This is a different kind of competition. We do it to grow the game and internationalize the game.”