Is the Little League World Series Double Elimination?
Across the globe, numerous young sportsmen and women passionate about playing baseball and softball dream about being chosen to participate in the Little League World Series (LLWS).
Every year they participate in special regional and national baseball tournaments, hoping that coaches and organizers will choose them to represent their community at the famous tournament.
You might be wondering about the competition, and in particular, about the format and rules.
Well, you are not alone.
Others are also unsure whether the Little League World Series is a single or double-elimination tournament.
This article will look at how the LLWS tournament is structured today and when it first started.
What is the Little League World Series?
Let's start at the beginning.
The Little League World Series is a baseball tournament held annually in the United States.
It is strictly for children, usually boys, between 10 to 12 years old.
The LLWS allows budding baseball players to showcase their skills and challenge their peers from around the globe.
While the competition is called the LLWS, it is just 1 of 7 World Series events funded by Little League International and held in different parts of the world.
Bringing together community teams from different Little League International regions, the tournament has 4 age divisions for baseball and 3 for girls' softball.
The tournament structure described in this article is for the Little League Baseball World Series (LLBWS), while other World Series tournaments use similar structures in different regions.
When did the Little League Baseball World Series start?
In 1947, the founding organizers did not realize the impact the tournament would have on future generations of baseball and softball players.
Only eight teams participated in those early days, but this number grew to sixteen in 2016.
Four additional teams were added in 2022.
The teams consist of ten from the USA and ten international teams from Japan, Thailand, and Mexico.
The competition has taken place every year since 1947, except in 2020, when the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic forced organizers to cancel it.
In 2021, the tournament resumed, with only teams from the United States participating.
Happily, 2022 saw the return of international teams and the resumption of the tournament in its entirety.
Interested in more Little League history? Read our article on the Little League Pledge.
Where does the Little League World Series take place?
Two main stadiums are used to host the South Williamsport, Pennsylvania tournament: the Howard J. Lamade Stadium and Volunteer Stadium, seating up to 15,000 and 5,000 fans, respectively.
A special feature of the Howard J. Lamade Stadium is that the grounds around the stadium can accommodate an additional 40,000 people.
Other than that, they are the same field size, featuring mounds positioned 46 feet away from home plate, base paths spanning 60 feet, and outfield fences extending to 225 feet.
What is the format for the Little League Baseball World Series?
Many people don't know that both the LLBWS and LLSWS are double-elimination types of tournaments and have been since 2010.
When the tournament began, there were fewer teams, so the single-elimination format was preferred; however, this is no longer practical.
Effectively, this means a team must lose two games to be eliminated from the tournament.
Let us now examine the competition format in more detail.
How does the Little League Baseball World Series work?
The Little League Baseball World Series is a multi-stage tournament featuring 20 teams worldwide.
The competition starts at the district level when little leagues choose an all-star team to compete in district, sectional, and then state tournaments.
Regional tournaments follow and culminate in a final knock-out stage.
By structuring the tournament to have separate US and International brackets, the organizers ensure that the final game is truly an international final.
Who can play?
Children between the ages of 9 and 12 may play on the condition that they live within the designated boundaries of their Little League team.
Little League players' age groups are calculated according to their ages on August 31st of the current year.
One way to consider the Little League World Series series is as two tournaments converging at the end.
In the initial rounds, United States teams only play other teams within their region (USA), and similarly, the international teams play only international teams.
Each of these regional tournaments has a winner's bracket and an elimination bracket giving the teams many opportunities to progress to the championship final.
1. US teams
Teams from different states within the United States participate in the US brackets.
These tournaments are divided into ten different regions based on geographical location.
Teams must win the regional tournament final to move to the next stage in the competition.
The following list is of the different regions in the United States:
The Great Lakes
2. International teams
Similarly, the international regions are divided according to geographical zones.
Eight international Little League divisions send ten teams to the international brackets—Cuba, Panama, and Puerto Rico rotate their participation.
Two teams receive an automatic bid, while the remaining team joins its division.
The international regions are as follows:
Europe and Africa
Japan, Latin America
How are the region tournaments played?
It's at the regional tournament's level that the double-elimination format occurs.
It's a simple process: Each team plays the other team twice.
The successful teams progress to the winner's bracket, while the losing sides move to the elimination bracket. Teams in the winner's bracket play each other, while those that lost their games play other losing sides.
Should the team lose again, it's then knocked out of the LLWS championship.
The world series
The young players really start to get excited once they reach the “world stage” of the tournament.
Only 4 teams and 3 games remain.
The tournament now moves to knock-out rounds, where one international team plays a team from the US bracket.
The remaining 2 teams do the same to determine which teams play in the championship game.
A third-place playoff game is also played.
Which teams play in the LLWS championship game?
The US bracket winner plays the International bracket winner in the championship game, with the victorious team being crowned the Little League World Series champion.
The losing side is the runner-up.
Who won the last Little League World Series?
Hawaii's Honolulu Little League beat Çuracao 13-3 to win the international championship match.
This was the second time in 4 years that this star team achieved this amazing feat.
Read our related article on the Little League World Series Winners throughout the years!
When does the 2023 Little League Baseball World Series start?
This greatly anticipated competition kicks off on Thursday, August 17th, and ends on Sunday, August 27th, 2023.
While each district has its own time frame, the games usually start in early spring, so each region is ready for its regional tournament.
What channel is the Little League World Series on?
The LLWS games will be broadcast on all the ESPN channels and ABC Sports channels in the United States.
ABC Sports channel will broadcast the US and International Championship games and the final, bringing a thrilling end to the competition.
The broadcast schedule is available in August.
Which teams are in the 2023 Little League World Series?
At this stage, some of the district tournaments are underway, with Bayamo Little League making history in early March by becoming the first league from Cuba to qualify for the Little League Baseball World Series.
After winning their best-of-three country championship series with a 2-1 victory over Habana del Este Little League, Bayamo Little League secured their spot in the prestigious tournament.
As the 2023 regional games have not yet started, the teams that will participate in the 2023 LLWS have not been determined.
What are the advantages of double-elimination tournaments?
Initially, the LLWS followed a knock-out format.
This means that teams played a series of games in a bracket-style tournament, with teams removed from the competition after losing only one game.
In 1956, they changed the format to double-elimination, causing fans worldwide to air their views on the subject.
Those involved in the sport claim that the double-elimination format gives teams a second chance.
This is advantageous because each team is given the opportunity to recover from losing a game.
In baseball, any mistake can be significant and decide the outcome of a match.
An added advantage is that more games can be played, which is great for fans and players and adds to the excitement.
Many people feel this format is fairer, giving each team equal chances to advance to the final rounds.
What are the disadvantages of double-elimination tournaments?
Critics of the format claim that increasing the length of the tournaments is not necessarily good for younger players.
It is incredibly tiring playing so many games over a ten-day period.
Some claims of unfair advantage have been made when the tiebreaker rules are applied.
This happened in 2019 when three teams finished with identical 2-1 scores in their group, but only two could advance to the next round.
Confusion reigned, and fans and parents were left disgruntled.
Has a Little League Baseball World Series team in an elimination bracket ever won the championship?
In 2019, the Eastbank Little League team from River Ridge, Louisiana, captivated fans worldwide with their impressive display of grit and determination during the Little League Baseball World Series.
After suffering a 5-2 defeat to the Central East Maui Little League team of Wailuku, Hawaii, in their tournament opening game, many wrote off the Louisiana team's chances of progressing further in the competition.
To everyone’s surprise, the Eastbank Little League fought their way back through the elimination bracket, recording impressive victories over teams from Virginia, New Jersey, and Hawaii's Central East Maui Little League team in a rematch.
With a score of 9-5, Eastbank Little League earned the right to represent the United States in the championship game.
Their opponent in the championship game was the Little League team from Curaçao, representing the international division. Eastbank Little League emerged victorious in a closely fought game, with a final score of 8-0.
Do girls play in the Little League Baseball World Series?
For many years many girls were excluded from participating in the League.
This has changed recently, with increasing numbers of girls participating in Little League baseball at all levels, including the World Series.
The first girl to play in the Little League was Kathryn Johnston. She played for a Little League team in Pennsylvania in 1950.
Desperate to play baseball, she cut off her pigtails and registered under the name “Tubby.”
Her appearance on the team caused controversy at the time, and girls were subsequently banned from playing baseball.
Fortunately, this rule was overturned several years later, making way for Victoria Roche from Brussels Little League to enter the fray at the 1984 Little League Baseball World Series.
Twenty-one girls in total have participated, with Falynn Randall playing for Snow Canyon Little League in Utah in the 2022 championship.
What is the Little League Softball World Series?
An annual event, the Little League Softball Series started in 1974, and has become a popular event on the world's sporting calendar.
Twelve teams participate in this softball tournament, which runs similar to the Little League Baseball World Series. After expanding in 2022 to eight US teams and four international teams, organizers hope to give more children a chance to represent their community in the softball league.
The Little League Softball World Series starts on Wednesday, August 9th, and draws to a close after the championship final on Tuesday, August 15th, 2023.
Watch the video below for a look at the Little League Softball World Series:
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the Little League World Series allow round-robin play?
No. The round-robin format is no longer used.
Are the Little League World Series games single elimination?
The regional rounds are double elimination, and the World Series games in the championship are knock-out rounds.
Does the Little League World Series have a new format?
A new format, in the form of a double-elimination bracket, replaced the round-robin in 2010.
Can a Little League game end in a tie?
No, extra innings are played until the tie is broken.
Since 2010, the Little League World Series has been using a double-elimination format in its regional and national tournaments, giving teams a second chance to compete and possibly progress to the final championship game of the tournament.
While for some fans, this change has affected the competition negatively, for others, it has added new levels of excitement and unpredictability to the competition.
Whether supporters of the game like the new format or not, the Little League World Series continues to be a well-loved and highly anticipated event that highlights the talents and skills of young sportsmen and women worldwide.
Thalia Oosthuizen has been writing in a professional capacity for over a decade. Her love for sports has led her down the path of sports writing, where her passion and skills combine. Thalia is a runner, cyclist, and swimmer, and enjoys playing tennis and hockey. Her favorite sports teams include Chelsea F.C. and the Georgian Lions Rugby Club.