San Francisco will be the world's (baseball) playground in 2013: Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday that AT&T Park will host the finals and semifinals of the World Baseball Classic next year.
The Classic, which had a three-year gap between the first (2006) and second (2009) editions, is now set to be played every four years, and AT&T Park will take over hosting duties from Los Angeles when the tournament returns next year.
In addition to AT&T Park, other games will be held at Marlins Park, Chase Field and Salt River Fields, leading up to the semi-finals and finals of the tournament.
This will be the third-straight time the WBC's been held in California as well: it began in San Diego in 2006 and then headed to L.A.
Japan has won both of the tournaments, but it'll be more difficult to win this year, with the field expanding to 28 teams in 2013.
"Growing the game of baseball around the globe is the primary objective of the World Baseball Classic," MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said at the time. "By expanding the competitive field of the 2013 tournament, we are demonstrating our commitment to this goal and reinforcing that the World Baseball Classic is the premier showcase of baseball around the globe. The tournament is a unique experience for fans to witness the excitement of this great game, and I encourage organizations around the world to bid for the chance to host this wonderful baseball event."
Canada, Chinese Taipei, Panama and South Africa didn't win any games in 2009 but will still compete in the play-in round. France, Spain, Great Britain, Germany, New Zealand, Colombia, Nicaragua, Brazil, Thailand, the Czech Republic, the Philippines and Israel will take part in the qualifying round.
Four teams from a double-elimination pool qualifying round will join 12 teams -- Australia, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela -- who are automatic entrants based on 2009's performance.
And the best teams will advance all the way to San Francisco.