Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish, right, of Japan watches from the dugout with teammate Adrian Beltre during a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
LM Otero
October 09, 2015

ROME (AP) If baseball rejoins the Olympics for the 2020 Tokyo Games, just qualifying for the tournament could be a challenge.

Under Tokyo's recommendations, the men's baseball competition would consist of just six teams - two less than the World Baseball Softball Confederation's proposal.

WBSC president Riccardo Fraccari told The Associated Press on Friday that, in addition to host and automatic qualifier Japan, one team would qualify by winning the 2019 Premier 12 tournament.

The other four entrants could be determined by continental qualifying tournaments: two from the Americas, one from Europe-Africa and one from Asia-Oceania.

The toughest competition could come in an Americas tournament featuring the United States, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Canada, Panama and Venezuela.

''It's going to be a battle to the last out,'' Fraccari said.

Under the current plan, the 2017 World Baseball Classic will have no impact on the Olympic tournament. That will give more importance to the Premier 12, a tournament Fraccari devised for the top-12 ranked nations.

The first edition of the Premier 12 will be held in Japan and Taiwan next month.

Fraccari is still holding out hope that his original Olympic proposal of eight teams can be revived.

''There's still a chance, depending on the number of athletes,'' he said.

A combined baseball-softball bid was among five additional sports recommended last month by Tokyo organizers. Karate, surfing, skateboarding and sports climbing were the others.

The International Olympic Committee will make a final decision in August.

The IOC voted in 2005 to remove baseball and softball after the 2008 Beijing Games. As separate bids, the two sports failed to return for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Baseball and softball merged into a single confederation two years ago.

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Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf

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