Williamsport, Pa. – The plans might have been delayed due to this year’s extraordinary circumstances, but that will not stop from moving ahead with its plans of expansion.
During the annual fall meeting of the Little League International Board of Directors, the first two international expansion teams who will earn direct entry to the 2022 Little League Baseball World Series (LLBWS) were announced, and the official dates for the 2023 Little League World Series (LLWS) were established.
Announced in August 2019, the LLBWS expansion will add two additional teams from the United States and two international teams to increase the total number of participating teams to 20 starting in 2022. For the international teams, a three-year rotation for direct entry into the LLBWS will be established between Cuba, Panama, and Puerto Rico, with two teams earning an automatic bid to the tournament each year and the remaining team competing through its respective regional tournament.
Outside of those countries who already receive direct entry into the LLBWS, these three countries have the largest number of local Little League teams, which was the main factor in determining the expansion teams.
Chosen at random by Antonio Gonzalez, departing Latin America Region field director of the Little League International Board of Directors, and Serafin Gomez III, the newly elected Latin America Region field director, the two teams to receive an automatic entry into the 2022 LLBWS will be Panama and Puerto Rico.
Based on this random selection, the LLBWS international pairings of the newly added teams for 2022, 2023, and 2024 will be as follows:
- 2022 LLBWS: Panama and Puerto Rico
- 2023 LLBWS: Panama and Cuba
- 2024 LLBWS: Puerto Rico and Cuba
Puerto Rico, home to the Latin America Region Little League headquarters, has sent 11 teams to the LLBWS since 1959, the last time in 2018 with Radames Lopez Little League from Guayama.
Panama was one of the first countries outside of the U.S. to have Little League programs, with leagues on either end of the Panama Canal starting in 1950, and has sent a total of 10 teams to the LLBWS since 1984, most recently in 2018 with Vacamonte Little League out of Arraijan.
After signing an agreement to affiliate with Little League in March 2019, Cuba was able to send its first Little League team to the Caribbean Region Tournament, advancing to the championship game before falling to eventual LLBWS International Champion, Curaçao.