After a year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Little League Baseball World Series is scheduled to return this week.
The annual tournament was planned to arrive with much fanfare, but some of the excitement was tamped down last week after an announcement regarding attendance.
Learn more about this international tournament and what’s in store for this year’s events.
What is the Little League World Series?
The Little League Baseball World Series (often simply called the Little League World Series or LLWS) is a tournament for Little League baseball players ages 10 to 12.
It’s held every year in August in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania and welcomes teams from around the world to compete for top honors.
This is a highly popular tournament that receives much fanfare, particularly in the U.S.
Teams are entered into a double-elimination bracket, with two pools: one for U.S. teams and one for international teams.
Most participants are boys. In 1984, however, Victoria Roche became the first girl to compete in the tournament for the Brussels team.
This year, star catcher Ella Bruning from Texas will become the 20th girl to compete in the Little League Baseball World Series.
A number of MLB players previously competed in the Little League World Series, including Jason Varitek (1984), Jason Marquis (1991), and Todd Frazier (1998).
Who are this year’s Little League World Series teams?
Eligible teams for the tournament are All-Star teams consisting of the top players from a single Little League.
Those teams compete in district, divisional/sectional, and regional tournaments for a chance to advance to the Little League World Series.
Typically, the top 16 teams from around the world participate in the tournament, with eight coming from regions within the United States (New England, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Great Lakes, Southeast, Southwest, Northwest, and West) and eight from international regions (Asia-Pacific and Middle East, Australia, Canada, Caribbean, Europe and Africa, Japan, Latin America, and Mexico).
In light of complications from the pandemic, no international teams will be included in this year’s event.
Instead, the 2021 Little League World Series will only host U.S.-based teams, with the top two teams from each of the eight U.S. regions competing.
Based on outcomes from regional tournaments this summer, the following teams have been placed in two brackets:
Hank Aaron Championship Teams
- New Jersey
Tom Seaver Championship Teams
- New Hampshire
- South Dakota
Originally, the tournament was scheduled to begin including 20 teams in 2021. However, this expansion was delayed to 2022 due to the pandemic.
Beginning next year, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Cuba will get alternating automatic bids into the tournament, with two of three granted bids per year.
In addition, the U.S. will include two new regions for the first time: Mountain (which covers Nevada, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming) and Metro (Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island).
History of the Little League World Series
The Little League Baseball World Series, originally called the National Little League Tournament, was first held in 1947.
At the time, there were only 17 Little League programs in the country, most of which were located in and around Pennsylvania.
The event was immediately popular, and newspapers across the U.S. reported on the outcome of the championship game.
The tournament contributed to new Little League programs popping up in every state over the next few years.
International regions were added to the tournament in 1958, and in 1963, the Little League World Series was first televised.
Is there a Little League Softball World Series?
Little League International hosts the Little League Softball World Series in Greenville, North Carolina every year.
This year’s tournament actually began on August 11 and continues through August 18.
The Little League Softball World Series and Little League Baseball World Series are two of the 12 total Little League tournaments held annually, including five age divisions for baseball, four age divisions for girls’ softball, and three divisions for boys’ softball.
Williamsport’s updated admissions policy for 2021
On August 13, Little League International announced that the 2021 Little League Baseball World Series would be closed to the general public.
Originally, event organizers had planned to distribute just 3,000 daily tickets to the games, which was already very limited compared to years past when hundreds of thousands of fans typically attended over the course of the tournament.
The announcement, which came just six days before the tournament kickoff date, was released in response to growing concerns over the coronavirus delta variant.
The stands won’t be completely empty like at the Tokyo Olympics, however. Family and friends of the players will still be permitted to attend, with each team receiving 250 passes for spectators.
Select supporters and volunteers will also be in attendance, and all spectators are strongly encouraged to wear face masks throughout the complex, especially while indoors.
How to watch the Little League World Series
This year’s Little League Baseball World Series will be held from August 19-29, with games aired on ESPN, ESPN 2, and ABC.
The championship game is scheduled for Sunday, August 29 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. It will be broadcast on ABC.
The complete Little League World Series schedule can be viewed at LittleLeague.org.