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Road to the Baseball World Series and Championships

  • The World Series (MLB) is a best-of-seven playoff held at the end of the MLB season, typically in late October, where the winners of the American League and National League face off
  • The World Baseball Classic, held every four years, showcases international baseball prowess by inviting national teams from around the globe.


Baseball is far more than a sport limited to the boundaries of one nation.

Its infectious enthusiasm has permeated international boundaries, creating a global phenomenon that millions of fans celebrate with fervor.

In this discussion, we delve into the fascinating world of baseball championships, from the heart of America’s Major League Baseball (MLB) to Japan’s highly competitive Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), to the passionate games of college and Little League, with a nod to the legendary Babe Ruth and the other championships that have made their mark in this exciting sports world.

Table of Contents

National Championships vs International Tournaments

While the championships I have outlined are all significant in their own right, they often differ from national championships in terms of scope, participants, and sometimes, the rules applied.

National championships primarily involve teams from within a specific country, and they are often a high-level competition that concludes a country’s professional baseball season. For example, the MLB World Series in the United States, the NPB Japan Series in Japan, and the Korean Series in South Korea are all national championships, as they involve teams from their respective nations competing to be crowned the best team in the country.

On the other hand, tournaments such as the World Baseball Classic and the Caribbean Series are international in scope, involving teams or clubs from multiple countries. The World Baseball Classic, for instance, is akin to the Baseball World Cup, where national teams from around the world compete. The Caribbean Series includes the champion clubs from several Caribbean nations’ winter leagues.

Additionally, the rules applied in these championships can sometimes differ from those in national championships. For instance, the designated hitter rule is universally applied in the NPB and the American League of the MLB, but it’s not used in the National League of the MLB. Meanwhile, international competitions like the World Baseball Classic follow the rules of the International Baseball Federation.

In essence, while national championships focus on crowning a country’s best team, other championships can be transnational, showcasing baseball’s diversity and global appeal. Both types of competitions are crucial in fostering a rich, global baseball culture.

Road To The Major League Baseball World Series

Established in 1903, the MLB World Series stands as a testament to baseball’s long-standing heritage.

The MLB consists of two leagues, the American League (AL) and National League (NL), each comprising 15 teams. The playoffs, also known as the “postseason”, typically begin in October and involve 10 teams: the three division winners and two Wild Card teams from each league.

Within each league, there are three divisions – East, Central and West:

  • AL East Division
  • AL Central Division
  • AL West Division
  • NL East Division
  • NL Central Division
  • NL West Division

MLB Divisions as of 2023

The American League (AL)

  • AL East – Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, NY Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, and Toronto Blue Jays
  • AL Central – Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Guardians (Indians), Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Twins
  • AL West – Houston Astros, LA Angles, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers

The National League (NL)

  • NL East – Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, and Washington (D.C.) Nationals
  • NL Central – Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and St. Louis Cardinals
  • NL West – Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, LA Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and San Francisco Giants

MLB Playoff Structure

MLB playoff games starts with six teams from each league. The teams consist of three division champions and three wild card teams winners from each league:

  • Number # 1 seed – Best league record
  • Number # 2 seed – Second-best division winner
  • Number # 3 seed – Third-best division winner
  • Number # 4 seed – Best record among Wild Card teams
  • Number # 5 seed – Second-best record among Wild Card teams
  • Number # 6 seed – Third-best record among Wild Card teams

Wild Card Series

The single elimination, winner-take-all Wild Card game (in use from 2012- to 2019, 2021) was replaced with the best-of-three, Wild Card Series in 2022.

  • Number #1 and #2 seeds from each league will receive first-round byes and advanced directly to the Division Series
  • For the Wild Card Series, the Number #3 seed will play the Number # 6 seed, and the Number #4 seed will play against the Number #5 seed.

For a detailed explanation of the Wild Card Series, go to New MLB postseason format explained

Divisional Series (ALDS, NLDS)

Divisional Series’ format is a best-of-five series, meaning the victorious team must win three games before advancing to the Championship Series.

  • The winner from the match between Number #3 seed vs #6 seed will play against the Number #2 seed in the Divisional Series round.
  • The winner from the match between Number #4 seed vs #5 seed will play against the Number #1 seed in the Divisional Series round.

League Championship Series (ALCS, NLCS) 

The League Championship Series is a best-of-seven series, with teams needing to win four games in order to advance.

The winners of these series determines the American League and National League Champions. They will then face off in the World Series.

World Series

The World Series follows the same structure as the Championship Series. A best-of-seven with four games being necessary to win.

After a team wins four games, they will be crowned as the Major League Baseball champions.

The culmination of the MLB season is the World Series, pitting the league champions against each other in a best-of-seven showdown.

The New York Yankees hold the record with 27 World Series titles, symbolizing an enduring legacy.

Japan Series – Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB)

Baseball’s roots in Japan go back to the 1870s, but it was not until 1950 that the NPB, Japan’s highest level of baseball, was established.

Japanese professional baseball culminates in a championship known as the Japan Series which takes place in late October and the Japan Series is the ultimate prize of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).

The NPB is composed of the Central League and the Pacific League, each consisting of six teams. Similar to the MLB structure, the regular season’s top-performing teams compete in the Climax Series, which is NPB’s playoff system leading to the Japan Series.

The Climax Series is divided into two stages: the First Stage and the Final Stage:

  • First Stage is a best-of-three series, with the second and third-place teams from each league facing off
  • Final Stage to play against the regular season’s league champion. This is a best-of-six series with one significant twist: the league champion starts the series with a one-game advantage.

In essence, the league champion only needs to win three games, while their opponent needs to win four games to advance.

The champions of the Central League and the Pacific League then face off in the Japan Series, a best-of-seven competition. The first team to win four games is crowned the champion.

Unlike the MLB, the NPB does not grant home-field advantage based on regular season records. Instead, the home-field advantage alternates yearly between the Pacific League and the Central League.

This playoff format adds a unique level of strategy and anticipation to the NPB. The one-game advantage in the Final Stage of the Climax Series often intensifies the competition, making the path to the Japan Series a thrilling journey for the teams and their fans.

The Yomiuri Giants, Japan’s answer to the Yankees, have dominated the Japan Series with over 20 titles.

College World Series (CWS)

From MLB’s professional prowess, we step into the vibrant world of collegiate baseball.

The College World Series (CWS) represents the culmination of the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship, determining the national champion.

The double-elimination tournament, which has been held annually since 1947, takes place in mid-June in Omaha, Nebraska.

Eight teams face off, divided into two brackets. The winners of each bracket, determined through a double-elimination format, compete in a best-of-three finals.

The University of Southern California holds the record for most CWS titles, but the field remains highly competitive.

Little League World Series (LLWS)

The Little League World Series (LLWS) is an annual baseball tournament for children aged 10 to 12 years, held each August in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Since its inception in 1947, the LLWS has grown into an international event, attracting teams from around the world.

The Little League World Series comprises 16 teams: 8 from the United States and 8 from other countries. The U.S. teams come from eight different geographic regions: New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Great Lakes, Midwest, Northwest, West, and Southwest. The international teams represent various regions worldwide, including Europe-Africa, Australia, Canada, Caribbean, Japan, Latin America, Mexico, and Asia-Pacific.

The tournament format is a modified double-elimination until the U.S. and International Championship games, which are single elimination. The tournament begins with a round-robin phase within each of the two divisions (U.S. and International). The top two teams from each pool then advance to the knockout phase.

In the knockout phase, the remaining teams compete in a series of games to determine the U.S. and International champions, respectively. The two division champions then meet in the Little League World Series Championship game, which is a winner-takes-all showdown.

The LLWS culminates in a weekend of championship games, with the U.S. Champion and the International Champion facing off for the world title on the last Sunday of the tournament.

The Little League World Series is about more than just baseball—it’s a celebration of youth sports, international friendship, and the shared love of the game. It’s an opportunity for young athletes to showcase their talent on a global stage, creating memories that last a lifetime.

Babe Ruth League World Series

Named after one of the sport’s greatest icons, the Babe Ruth League hosts a World Series event for age groups ranging from 13 to 18.

This championship series, known for nurturing young talent, has multiple divisions, including the 13-15 Baseball division, the 16-18 Baseball division, and the 14-year-old only division.

Each division has its own World Series event, hosted at various locations across the U.S.

14U World Series

The Babe Ruth 14-Year-Old World Series is an exciting baseball tournament that attracts teams from across the United States.

The league’s divisions are based on age, and the 14-Year-Old division offers young players the chance to compete at a high level while continuing to develop their skills. The age-specific focus enables fair competition and a better opportunity for player development.

In terms of format, the Babe Ruth 14-Year-Old World Series typically begins with pool play. Teams are divided into multiple pools and compete in a round-robin format. The top teams from each pool then advance to the single-elimination phase of the tournament.

The single-elimination phase continues until a champion is crowned. It’s worth noting that while the teams mainly come from different regions in the United States, the Babe Ruth League also has international affiliations, and international teams occasionally participate in the tournament.

Double Elimination
Prior to reaching the World Series, Babe Ruth’s state playoff games do use double elimination format

The tournament offers a valuable experience for players, coaches, and fans alike.

Young players get the opportunity to compete at a high level, learn from their peers, and build confidence on the diamond.

Caribbean Series

Initially organized in 1949, the Caribbean Series, or Serie del Caribe, assembles the champion clubs of the professional winter leagues from five countries: Mexico (Mexican Pacific League), Puerto Rico (Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League), the Dominican Republic (Dominican Professional Baseball League), Venezuela (Venezuelan Professional Baseball League), and Cuba (Cuban National Series).

The format is a 12-game round-robin, with each team playing the others once. The top two teams then proceed to the championship game. It’s a showcase of high-level play and has historically been a stepping stone for many Latin players into Major League Baseball. The Dominican Republic’s Tigres del Licey hold the record with 10 titles. The series traditionally takes place in the first week of February, rotating between the participating countries.

World Baseball Classic

The World Baseball Classic (WBC) is the premier international baseball tournament, sanctioned by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) in conjunction with Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. The tournament, held every four years since 2006, invites 16 national teams for an Olympic-style competition.

Structured in an Olympic-style competition format, this tournament is sanctioned by the World Baseball Softball Confederation in conjunction with Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. The tournament reflects baseball’s global popularity and influence, fostering international camaraderie and competition.

The teams are divided into four pools for a round-robin preliminary round, with the top two from each pool advancing to a second round of round-robin play. The top two from each of these pools move into a single-elimination championship round. Japan won the first two tournaments in 2006 and 2009, with the Dominican Republic and the United States claiming the trophy in 2013 and 2017 respectively.

Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball (Can-Am League)

Though no longer operating independently after merging with the Frontier League in 2019, the Can-Am League played a significant role in baseball’s professional minor leagues from 2005 to 2019. The league consisted of teams from the Northeast United States and Eastern Canada. The championship was determined through a playoff system, similar to Major League Baseball.

Korean Series

The Korean Series is the championship series of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), the highest level of baseball in South Korea. Established in 1982, the Korean Series occurs in late October or early November. The team with the best record from the regular season automatically advances to the Korean Series, while the second through fifth-place teams compete in a step-ladder playoff system to determine the other participant. The KBO’s format is unique and has given rise to many memorable postseason showdowns. The Kia Tigers hold the record with 11 Korean Series championships.

The celebration of baseball doesn’t end with just these championships. There’s also the Cuban National Series, the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan, the Italian Baseball League, the Honkbal Hoofdklasse in the Netherlands, and many more. These championships, though diverse in their structure, location, and participants, all play an integral role in spreading the magic of baseball globally, highlighting the sport’s universal appeal.


Baseball, as evidenced by its many forms and stages, is far more than a simple game; it is a global language that transcends national borders and age groups. Its championships, in all their unique formats and locations, reflect the sport’s enduring appeal and its powerful ability to bring people together. From the professional magnificence of MLB and NPB to the budding talent in college, Little League, and Babe Ruth League, every pitch, hit, and catch captures the heart of what makes this sport truly timeless.