The World Baseball Softball Confederation has released details on the dates and the draw for the WBSC Women’s World Cup Qualifying Tournaments, to be played in three locations in Europe in July 2023, and the GB Women have been drawn to play in Ireland.
The Irish Qualifier will include a couple of formidable softball powers in the USA and Australia, but a revitalized GB Women’s Team and programme, which achieved a silver medal at last summer’s European Championship, will have the goal of winning a place in the WBSC Women’s World Cup Final in 2024 under new Head Coach Tara Henry.
This will be the first WBSC Women’s World Cup to be played in a new staged format: continental tournaments in 2022 and early 2023 (such as the European Women’s Championship) qualify countries to play in three WBSC Qualifying Tournaments in July 2023, and eight teams from those tournaments will contest the Women’s World Cup Final to be hosted in Italy in 2024.
The Netherlands, Great Britain and Italy won the right at last summer’s European Women’s Championship to compete in the Qualifying Tournaments, and the GB Women have been drawn in Group A, to be hosted from 11-15 July in Dublin, Ireland.
The Netherlands have been drawn in Group B, to be played in Valencia, Spain from 18-22 July, and Italy will host Group C in Castions di Strada and Buttrio from 22-26 July.
The groups and the draw for the 2023 Women’s World Cup Qualifying Tournaments are shown below:
The Qualifying Tournaments currently have 12 of the 18 participating teams confirmed. In addition to The Netherlands, Great Britain and Italy who qualified from Europe, the USA, Canada, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Venezuela qualified as the top five from the 2022 Pan American Championship. Two wild cards have been allocated to Ireland and Spain as host nations, while Australia and New Zealand will represent Oceania.
Two continental qualifiers are still to be played, with three spots available from the Women’s Softball Asia Cup to be played in Korea next year, and two more from the African Qualifier, slated to be played in Botswana in the early months of 2023. After these two tournaments have been completed, the WBSC will award the final wild card to complete the 18 teams, which will probably be given to a country that just missed out on continental qualification.
The top two teams from each of these groups will advance to the World Cup Final in 2024, and will be joined by Italy as the host (if Italy fails to qualify as of right) and/or the top third place teams in these groups based on final standings at the last Women’s World Cup or WBSC world ranking positions.
The exact dates of the WBSC Women’s Softball World Cup Final, to be staged in Castions di Strada and Buttrio, Italy in 2024, will be announced at a later date, as will the competition formats for the 2023 Qualifying Tournaments and the 2024 Finals.
This will be the first time that Ireland, Italy and Spain will have hosted a Softball World Cup in any category, and the second time that the Women’s Softball World Cup will have been played in Europe, after the Netherlands organised the tournament in 2014.
Softball Ireland President Colum Lavery said, “The announcement of the composition of our World Cup group is an exciting moment as we build towards the summer of 2023. We are honoured that Ireland will welcome some of the top nations in the world and we look forward to giving each of them a warm Céad Míle Fáilte when they arrive.”
“This tournament presents a once in a lifetime opportunity for our players to play in a World Cup on their home field,” Colum added, “and for us to create a strong positive legacy for the game in Ireland, promote all disciplines of the game, and supercharge the growth of women’s and youth softball.”
Andrea Marcon, President of the Italy Baseball Softball Federation, said: "It's a great honour to be part of this historic moment with the first Softball World Cup in a staged format taking place in Europe and in my country. Of course, it is also a great responsibility, but it is equally certain that we will be hosted by local authorities which have a great tradition of hosting major events.”
Finally, Jesus Lisarri, President of the Spain Baseball Softball Federation, said: "We are very happy to host the WBSC Women's Softball World Cup and have no doubt we will help deliver a great tournament, thanks to Valencian public institutions and the Valencia Baseball Softball Federation, which is experienced in hosting large-scale events. I want to thank the WBSC for trusting our Federation to organise this event."