New baseball tournament for top 12 national teams announced

TOKYO (AP) In a boost for baseball's bid for inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan will co-host a new international baseball tournament this year.

The launch of the World Baseball Softball Confederation's Premier 12 tournament was announced in Tokyo on Monday by the leaders of the WBSC and Nippon Professional Baseball.

The tournament will feature the men's top-12 ranked national teams and will be played in Japan and Taiwan from Nov. 8-21.

Organizers called it a ''new flagship professional baseball world championship.''

The opening round-robin stage and quarterfinals will be played in Taiwan. The ''grand opening,'' semifinals, bronze medal game and gold medal championship will be played at the Tokyo Dome.

The full schedule and groups will be released later.

The tournament is a new version of the Baseball World Cup, which didn't include top major leaguers and was discontinued after 2011.

It is separate from the World Baseball Classic, which is co-owned by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. The next classic is scheduled for 2017.

WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari said the new tournament is part of ''the emergence of a new world order in baseball and softball.''

Baseball and softball were removed from the Olympics after the 2008 Beijing Games but are hoping to be added to the program in Tokyo.

Under the IOC's ''Olympic Agenda 2020'' reforms approved in December, host cities are allowed to propose the inclusion of one or more additional events for their games. Because of their popularity in Japan, baseball and softball are considered to have the best chance of being added.

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