In baseball, there are three different levels of the sport that title their championship games the World Series: Little League, NCAA and MLB.
Only Little League has really lived up to the “world” aspect in that, as for several decades, teams from across the globe have travelled to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to take on American teams in a contest to determine the best Little League team in the world.
That won’t be the case this year. For the first time since 1975, there will only be American teams vying for the chance to be crowned the 2021 Little League World Series champion.
Why is that the case? Sporting News breaks it down.
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Why are there no international teams in the 2021 LLWS?
After the Little League World Series was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, questions immediately came up as to whether it would return at all in 2021. The answer was yes, but with a catch: there would be no teams coming in from outside the United States.
Little League announced in May that based on recommendations from the 2021 Little League International Pandemic Response Advisory Committee that the 2021 contest would feature only teams from the United States for both the Little League Baseball and Little League Softball World Series tournaments.
Instead of having one bracket consisting of American teams and another of international teams, the two championship brackets will be called the Hank Aaron Championship and the Tom Seaver Championship, named for the two Hall of Fame baseball players that passed away over the past year. The winners of each championship will face off in the final for the 2021 Little League World Series title.
How long has the LLWS been international?
The first time an international team took part in the Little League World Series was in 1952, when a team from Montreal, Quebec, joined the field. It wasn’t until 1957 that an international team won the title as Industrial Little League from Monterey, Mexico, took home the championship. The following year, Canada and Latin America each received automatic qualifiers for the first time in the tournament’s history.
International teams have been in every Little League World Series since, except for one, which came in 1975 due to a controversial banning of international teams.
In the previous 73 years of the Little League World Series, the United States has won the championship 36 times while international teams have won 37. Taiwan has claimed the most titles with 17, while California leads among all U.S. states with seven.
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Will there be international teams in 2022?
Little League is not only anticipating the return of international teams for 2022, but it is also planning on rolling out its expansion next year.
The plan was originally to add two American teams and two international teams to bring the combined field up to 20 altogether. Little League was set to launch the expansion in 2021 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Little League World Series, but it has now been moved back to 2022 due to the coronavirus.
Of course, it remains difficult to anticipate the state of the world a year from now, especially as the spread of the delta variant has intensified around the world, but if things return more to normal in 2022, Little League will likely be bringing in not just eight, but 10 international teams to Williamsport, Pennsylvania.