The Little League World Series has been going on for decades, and while it may not have the same appeal as its Major League counterpart, there’s many reasons to be excited. Many consider baseball to be a mostly American sport, but the LLWS has proven that people across the world care about it, and winning the competition is a source of pride for the next generation of baseball talent across the world.
Who competes in the Little League World Series?
There are two brackets in the LLWS. The American bracket is built up of eight different regional teams from New England to the South West and everywhere in between. These teams face off against each other in the first and second round. The winner after round two will be the American champion, but they have to play one other game to be world champion.
In some ways, the LLWS is the U.S. against the world. After all, one country has half of the participants. However, just because Americans stake a claim on baseball, it doesn’t mean that they’ll have an easy path. The international bracket, like the American one, is broken up regionally around the world, and if history tells us one thing, nobody should sleep on them.
How are teams formed?
According to Little League University, there are strict requirements for players to be able to compete in the World Series. Aside from age requirements, they must have competed in at least 60% of the games. However, some of the selection practices fall to the local and regional higher-ups who help to form the teams.
The local league Board of Directors have final say over who makes it onto a Tournament team, but their methods can vary across the countries. It is recommended that multiple groups compete to make it fair. Players are also given say, and they even state that players are known to be objective when they talk about their teammates. Teams are allowed 14 players, one manager, and two coaches.
Since the 1960s, international teams have had much success in the Little League World Series. Taiwan started off the trend, and while that ended over 20 years ago, their 17 wins between 1969 and 1996 remain the most by any team in the history of the world series. Japan, on the other hand, began winning in the sixties, but they have been the most dominant team over the last decade. They have five championships during that stretch.
While Taiwan and Japan have the most, they are not the only international winners. Mexico and South Korea have both won three apiece, Venezuela has won two, and Curacao has won a single. When international teams first started competing and winning, it was seen as a good thing to some people.
In 1974, controversy arose when Little League banned international teams from competing in the competition as a result of the recent international domination. The ban caused a lot of outcry, and by the next year there was an international competition, yet again. Now, it is embraced.
The 2019 Little League World Series
Play is underway for the Little League World Series. Last year, Hawaii was crowned the champions, but every year is wide open. Many players from the MLB got their start playing in the international competition, and perhaps the players we are talking about in ten, fifteen, or twenty years will be competing in this year’s tournament.
Youth sports do not have many competitions that are as big in scale as the Little League World Series, and as the teams get ready to find a new champion, it is a great reminder of the way that sports can form bridges between children who otherwise may never have had a chance to compete on a stage like this.