US opens next Olympic baseball qualifying try vs Nicaragua

The United States will start its second attempt to qualify for this year's Olympic baseball tournament against Nicaragua on March 22 at Surprise, Arizona.

The Americans play the Dominican Republic the following day at Tempe and finish Group B against Puerto Rico on March 24 in Surprise, the World Baseball Softball Confederation said Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Only players not on 40-man major league rosters are eligible to play for the U.S.

Canada, Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela are in Group A of the Americas qualifying tournament. The top two teams in each group advance to a super round, with head-to-head group results carrying over. The super round winner joins host Japan, Israel, Mexico and South Korea in the six-nation Olympic field. The second- and third-place nations advance to a final qualifying tournament from April 1-5 in Taiwan, joining a field that will include Australia, China, the Netherlands and Taiwan.

The U.S. was three outs from qualifying last November at the Premier12 tournament. Matt Clark hit a tying home run off former St. Louis pitcher Brandon Dickson leading off the bottom of the ninth inning, Efren Navarro had a broken-bat single against Caleb Thielbar to drive in the winning run in the 10th and Mexico beat the Americans 3-2.

Baseball was an Olympic event from 1992-08. Cuba won three gold medals, the U.S. one (2000) and South Korea one (2008). The sport has been restored for the Tokyo Oympics and is likely to be dropped again for 2024. This year's Olympic event will be played at Fukushima and Yokohama from July 29 to Aug. 8.

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