Three European teams break the top 10 in the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) softball rankings for 2017. Europe ranked alongside Asia, America and the Oceania with at least one representative in the group. For Europe the top country was The Netherlands who rose from 8th to 7th this year.
The Dutch weren’t the only Europeans that moved north however. Italy jumped four spots to fill the vacancy left by the Kingdom at #8, while The Czech Republic slipped in behind them, up 4, to #9.
That puts three European teams in the top 10 for the first time in WBSC rankings history. With the 7,8 and 9 spots locked, Italy and The Czech Republic both broke through the top ten for the first time.
Russia jumped two positions, from 28th to 26th and Israel leapt three landing at #34, but it was Ireland who coasted past the competition to land 11 spaces higher than 2016. They not only rounded out the top 20 in that spot, they were the only other EU team to make that list. The Emerald lasses also took home the award for largest rise through the rankings this season.
Both Austria and Greece dropped out of the top 20 this year falling from 18 to 21 and 19 to 22 respectively.
Only 6 teams overall remained in their same seat at the conclusion of the season. Half of them were from Europe. Great Britain (14), France (24) and Switzerland (32) have stayed put.
Other notable moves included the unseating of Japan, by the USA for the top of the heap. That puts someone other than Japan at #1 for the first time in the WBSC rankings.
24 new nations were added to the rankings this year, expanding the Softball World Rankings to 62 from 38 in 2016. The expansion falls on the heels of the decision by the International Olympic Committee to expand the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games to include the sport.
All world championship qualifiers, as well as continental championships, are now factored into the rankings. The WBSC system tracks a country's entire national team performance in all WBSC-sanctioned international competitions over a four-year period, including the U-19 Junior Women and Women Softball World Championships, multi-sport games, continental championships, and the friendly series.
This new rankings methodology gave 24 nations, from three continents, points for the first-time including Aruba, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Curacao, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Iran, Lithuania, Pakistan, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the Ukraine for Europe. This was a first-time award for Turkey across the entire WBSC ranking system in either baseball or softball.
While the men of Denmark have been heavily featured in the softball rankings, this was a first appearance for the women.
There will be more competitions than ever to watch heading into 2018 but the must-see will be the WBSC Women’s Softball World Championship, which takes place beginning August 2nd in Chiba, Japan. The winner walks away with a trophy, substantial points to assist in the rankings and their ticket punched to Tokyo 2020!