Baseball players from around the world coming to tournament in Bradenton-Sarasota

Some of the best up-and-coming baseball players in the world will be headed to stadiums in the Bradenton-Sarasota area in 2021.

The World Baseball Softball Confederation announced Tuesday that the cities of Bradenton and Sarasota and USA Baseball will host all 50 Under-18 Baseball World Cup games in September 2021.

The games will be divided between LECOM Park in Bradenton and Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota and bring in the best players between 16 and 18 years old from 12 countries.

The Pittsburgh Pirates hold their spring training games at LECOM Park, while the Baltimore Orioles do the same at Ed Smith Stadium.

“USA Baseball is honored to be selected to host the U-18 Baseball World Cup and we aim to provide a truly once-in-a-lifetime baseball experience to the athletes and fans who take part in this premier event,” USA Baseball President Mike Gaski said in a news release.

“Our national pastime continues to be a major influence in the culture of the United States and we are proud to partner with the cities of Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida, to welcome the international baseball community to the birthplace of baseball.”

The USA Baseball 18U National Team will get an automatic berth into the tournament as the host nation. The team is the four-time defending champion, having taking home the title in 2017, 2015, 2013 and 2012.

Team USA will look to win an unprecedented fifth consecutive world championship this year when the U-18 Baseball World Cup is held in Gijang, Republic of Korea, from Aug. 30-Sept. 8.

“We are thrilled to have been awarded the bid to host the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup in September 2021 — one of the top youth championships in all of sports,” Sean Walter, director of sports at the Bradenton Area Sports Commission, said in a news release.

“Both the Bradenton area and the Pittsburgh Pirates organization stand ready to provide the ideal setting for the world’s best players, who will go on to become future leaders in the sports industry.”

According to a news release, it will be the first time since the 1995 Junior World Championship that the United States has hosted the top youth international baseball event.

For more information on the 2021 U-18 Baseball World Cup, visit SarasotaBradenton2021.com, or follow @SARBRAD2021 on Instagram and Twitter. Ticket information will be available in early 2020.

Sara Nealeigh covers what’s happening in the cities of Bradenton and Palmetto, Florida for the Bradenton Herald. She previously covered breaking news for the Herald after moving to Florida from Ohio in 2016.