To provide the World Series experience to more children around the world, the Little League® International Board of Directors has approved expanding the number of teams at the Little League Baseball® World Series to 20 and Little League Softball® World Series to 12, starting in 2021.
“The Board has been discussing the future of the Little League International Complex and our World Series tournaments since restructuring our teenage divisions in 2016 with a goal of more support and programing for Little League participants and establish a long-term plan for improving the facilities at our Williamsport headquarters,” said Hugh E. Tanner, Little League International Board of Directors Chairman. “The Little League World Series experiences in Williamsport and Portland are perhaps the most incredible moments these 10- to 12-year-olds will ever have, and we want to provide that opportunity to more boys and girls each year and ensure that the facilities hosting these tournaments are ready to accommodate these additional teams, their families, and fans.”
Set to launch in 2021 in coordination with the celebration of the 75th Little League Baseball World Series, the new expansion will allow for two additional teams from the United States and two additional international teams to participate in the Little League Baseball World Series as well as two additional teams to compete at the Little League Softball World Series.
The decision stemmed from the Little League International Board of Directors annual spring meeting in 2019, where an ad-hoc committee was established consisting of representatives from both the United States and International Regions and the Chairs of the sub-committees of the Board to evaluate the idea of expansion before presenting the opportunity to the entire Board during the August 2019 meeting. During that August meeting, held at the Little League Baseball World Series on Friday, August 23, the Board voted to approve the decision.
“The heart of this expansion is providing more children and more volunteers with a once-in-a-lifetime experience at our World Series tournaments,” said Stephen D. Keener, Little League President and CEO. “The only impact this will have on our local leagues is that there are more opportunities for more teams to participate in Williamsport and Portland. Our leagues’ regular seasons and earlier tournament games will not be impacted. Our commitment to supporting our local leagues through Grow the Game grant programs, low affiliation fees, and educational resources will continue to thrive and hopefully expand, and the support from all of our partners and official sponsors is stronger today than it has ever been.”
The proposed regional alignments for the expansions were determined to provide local Little League programs in all of our regions with more opportunities to qualify for the Little League World Series based on Little League’s regional structure, geographical proximity, and partially based on the number of affiliated teams in each state, country, and region. Little League International has, and will continue to, evaluate its regional alignments in every division of the Little League program on an annual basis to provide an equal and fair opportunity to all its local leagues.
In addition to the expansion, the Little League International Board of Directors approved a series of facilities improvements to the Little League International Complex in South Williamsport, Pa., including the addition of dormitories, as well as improved infirmary and laundry facilities, to accommodate the additional teams. Enhancements to the fan experience through improved parking, restrooms, gift shop, and other areas are planned. Little League International will also work with our Little League Softball World Series Tournament Committee for improvements to the facilities in Portland, Ore., to fully accommodate for the expansion of the Little League Softball World Series. The overall project to enhance facilities in both Williamsport and Portland is estimated to cost $15 million. To finance the facility improvements and expansion, Little League will utilize reserved funds to ensure there is no financial impact to local Little League programs.
A brief overview of the expansion impact for each of the Little League Baseball and Little League Softball World Series can be found below. For more information on the decision to expand, including Frequently Asked Questions for local leagues and families, visit LittleLeague.org/2021.