And WBC can be even better in ’26
I watched the entire Japan vs. USA World Baseball Classic (WBC) championship game, and it was one of the best baseball games I’ve seen in terms of intensity, drama and pure fun. Shohei Ohtani vs. Mike Trout was the perfect way to end what was a very successful WBC, on and off the field.
Television ratings and overall excitement levels in Japan and Mexico were off the charts. U.S. TV ratings were also up significantly for the WBC compared to prior years. And consider the following social media tidbits:
- Nine of MLB’s top 10 most-liked tweets of all time came from the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
- Ohtani’s strikeout of Trout to win the WBC is MLB’s most-liked tweet ever, with 200,000 likes. That’s 170,000 more than their most popular non-WBC tweet (Astros 2022 World Series).
- Fox’s tweet about Japan’s WBC Championship win had 275,000 likes in 36 hours.
- Their previous record was just 20,000 likes, and their top 35 most-liked tweets all came during the last two weeks of this year’s WBC.
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Despite all those positives, I have an idea that I think could take the WBC to the next level and create Super Bowl, World Cup and Olympics-type excitement.
Finding the best time to hold the WBC has been an issue from the start. It remains the primary challenge for the WBC.
Here’s my plan for WBC 2026:
Play the early rounds at multiple sites in March – just like this year — and then have the semi-finals and finals during the All-Star break. No All-Star game that year, two semi-final WBC games and the championship game in that five-day MLB break. Most players and pitchers would be in prime form. And it wouldn’t require a long break in the middle of the MLB season, as it would if the entire tournament was held in July.
In terms of the economics, every MLB team, as well as professional teams from other countries, would get X per cent of total WBC revenues. Organizations with players in the Final Four would get bonus revenues for each player from their organization in the Final Four (more money if their players make the final game.) The players themselves would also get bonuses if they play in the Final Four of the WBC.
Ratings for a World Baseball Final Four (there’s time to work on a better, more original name) would be through the roof. I think MLB, as a whole, along with worldwide baseball associations and organizations, would love a revised version of the WBC, such as what’s proposed here, as it would be the ultimate marketing vehicle for the game of baseball on a global basis. The burst in baseball’s popularity resulting from WBC 2026 would, in turn, feed interest in baseball and boost ratings for MLB moving forward. I would venture to guess the same would hold true for professional baseball leagues in other countries.
Finally, I think the MLB Players Association (as well as the players in other leagues) would also be on board, as the players who participated in this year’s WBC have returned to their countries and teams with strong positive feelings about this year’s WBC.
Baseball has traditionally been slow to make any significant changes. However, the sport has recently overcome that history by implementing multiple rule changes for this season. Similarly, compared to other sports, baseball’s marketing efforts have been lacking through the years and pale in comparison to what football, basketball and hockey have done from a business perspective. But baseball’s power brokers have a chance to change that history by creating a WBC Final Four during the traditional All-Star break in 2026.
Will baseball actually consider doing something progressive when it comes to the next WBC? Here’s hoping so.
Ken Reed is sports policy director for League of Fans (leagueoffans.org), a sports reform project. He is the author of The Sports Reformers, Ego vs. Soul in Sports, and How We Can Save Sports.
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