With the Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees series at London Stadium deemed a success, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laid out the current MLB international plan: No Asia opener in 2020, potentially more games across Europe, and the return of the World Baseball Classic in 2021.
The 2019 MLB season began early, when the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics opened in March in Tokyo. The current agreement with the players union allows for a 2020 opener in Asia as well, but Manfred says that MLB will pass on any Asia offer. With the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals set to play in London during the 2020 season, Manfred says his office’s focus will be on Europe, though there may be additional games scheduled in Mexico (this season saw spring-training and regular-season games played in Mexico). From AP:
“I would like to have sustained play in Europe,” Manfred said. “I’m glad we’re coming back next year. I’d like to be back after that. But I am interested in having play in other cities in Europe.”
Manfred would not identify which cities interest him.
“We’re really at a very preliminary point. They key thing with any city is the facility,” he said. “A lot of people will tell you they can build a ballpark. Until you get on the ground and figure whether a particular facility can be configured for baseball, it’s just premature to get into other cities.”
International play has been deemed a success in the NFL, where the Jacksonville Jaguars have established roots in London thanks to an annual games.
Meanwhile, Manfred confirmed the return of the World Baseball Classic in 2021. The tournament begins with play around the globe before later rounds take place in the United States. It was deemed a success in 2017, with strong crowds in Tokyo and the United States, culminating with a tournament record crowd of 51,565 for the championship game at Dodger Stadium. You can read more about the WBC plans at our sister site, Spring Training Online. One interesting twist we may see in 2021: a European site. The 2017 WBC sites were located in Tokyo, South Korea and the United States; given MLB’s current love affair with Europe, it would not be too surprising to see the WBC extended there as well.