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07/11/2005 3:00 p.m. ET
First World Baseball Classic set for March

The World Baseball Classic, a 16-nation tournament sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), will feature the best players in the World competing for their home countries for the first time. The tournament will take place in March, 2006 with the Tournament Final to be played in the United States on Monday, March 20, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association jointly announced today.

The following sixteen National Teams have been invited to participate in the event and divided into four pools of four teams for the first round of play:

Pool APool BPool CPool D
Chinese TaipeiCanadaCubaAustralia
ChinaMexicoNetherlandsDominican Republic
JapanSouth AfricaPanamaItaly
KoreaUSAPuerto RicoVenezuela

The Round 1 Asia pool will commence on Friday, March 3 with the remaining three Round 1 pools beginning on Wednesday, March 8. Both Round 2 pools will begin on Monday, March 13, with the Semi-Final games to be played on Saturday, March 18 and the World Baseball Classic Final on Monday, March 20.

Rounds 1 and 2 of the tournament will feature a round robin format as each country plays teams within its pool one time. The top two teams by record from each Round 1 pool will advance to Round 2, with the top two teams from each Round 2 pool advancing to the Semi-Final round. The Semi-Finals and the Final will both be single elimination.

The four Round 1 pools are scheduled to be played at venues in Asia, Latin America and the United States, while the Round 2 pools are scheduled to be played at venues in Latin America and the United States. The Tournament Semi-Finals and Final are scheduled to be played in the United States.

The Official Rules of Major League Baseball will be used throughout the tournament, including the use of the designated hitter. A Technical Committee will be named to implement certain rules modifications, such as pitch count limitations and expansion of the roster size, to accommodate the tournament format.

Players will be eligible to play for a National Team based on citizenship. Any player in the world who is a citizen of a participating World Baseball Classic country is eligible to be selected.

Each National Team will select a roster with a minimum 27 players (of which at least 12 must be pitchers). All players on provisional and final rosters will be subject to Olympic-style drug testing in accordance with an Anti-Doping Agreement signed by MLB, the MLBPA and the IBAF.

Next spring, MLB players participating in the tournament will be required to report to their respective Club's training camp on the normal reporting date. Training facilities will be made available at Major League spring training sites for players who wish to report early in order to prepare for the World Baseball Classic.

Prior to the commencement of the World Baseball Classic, each National Team will hold a training camp so that all players can prepare for competition. Participating teams will be hosted at Spring Training camps in North America and Asia.

Financially, 47% of the net proceeds will go to prize money, and the remaining 53% of the net, if it's a positive number, will be divided between MLB, MLBPA, the IBAF and the participating professional organizations.