The United States could be one loss away from the indignity of being shipped off to a qualifier for the next World Baseball Classic, scheduled for 2017.
If Team USA loses Sunday to Canada, it will finish in last place in Pool D with a 1-2 record. (Mexico is 1-2, but it would win a tiebreaker by virtue of its head-to-head win against the U.S.) According to a tournament official, "as it stands now," the four last-place finishers in pool play this year will have to re-qualify for the 2017 tournament -- the same rule that was in place for 2009 participants.
Australia, Brazil and Spain are the last-place finishers of the other pools in the tournament this year.
Imagine a group of Major Leaguers having to play a modified double-elimination tournament in November 2016, just after the World Series, just to get into the next WBC. The 2012 qualifying tournaments were held in Jupiter, Fla., Germany, Panama and Taiwan.
An MLB official said so many countries have been petitioning to participate in the WBC that having pool play last-place finishers re-qualify allows for a possible churn rate. Coincidentally, the four last-place finishers from 2009 all failed to win a game. Because of that coincidence, it was thought that winning one WBC game automatically re-qualified a country, but the official said that distinction is not an official one. Instead, the official said the determinant for re-qualifying for the 2013 WBC was a last-place finish in pool play in 2009.
Unless the WBC changes those re-qualifying rules, the USA needs to beat Canada on Sunday not only to advance to the second round, but also to stave off the indignity of being shipped to a qualifying tournament in 2016.