As teams across Major League Baseball desperately try to qualify for the league's postseason, 16 countries are beginning their quest to do the same for 2013's World Baseball Classic.
With 12 teams being given automatic qualifying status into the tournament, that means these teams are playing for just four spots over the course of a couple months.
Getting the tournament started will be the eight teams comprising the first two groups, with the second cycle of qualifiers being held in November.
It's unlikely that there are many names that you will recognize playing this weekend. However, there are a plethora of ones you will know in the near future.
With few games being broadcast on television, it's essential to know when and where to watch online. For that reason, here's a live stream viewing guide for the best action of the next couple of days.
(All games can be streamed live at the World Baseball Classic's official website.)
Canada vs. Great Britain
Date/Time: Thursday Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. ET
The Canadians come into their game against the Brits ranked fifth in the world and the prohibitive favorites in their group. With top prospects like outfielder Tyson Gillies (Philadelphia Phillies) and catcher Kellin Deglan (Texas Rangers) manning the roster, it's not hard to see why.
Canada still likely has a poor taste in its mouth after a disappointing performance in the 2009 WBC and will look to atone for that mistake.
Thursday will be our first opportunity to see whether this Canadian squad will be able to live up to the hype or crumble on the national stage once again.
Spain vs. France
Date/Time: Thursday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. ET
Granted, these two countries would have far more hype if this were a basketball matchup.
However, Thursday's matchup should be an opportunity to see perfectly matched styles facing off against one another.
The Spanish team will be considered by most to have one of the best pitching staffs among qualifying teams, with Chris Manno (Cincinnati Reds) and Richard Castillo (St. Louis Cardinals) atop the rotation.
Spain will come against a French team that also prefers to keep the scores down low. If France's pitching staff can keep the team in the game, this could turn out to be one of the more exciting contests of the weekend.
Germany vs. Czech Republic
Date/Time: Friday, Sept. 21 at 1 p.m. ET
For those who like David and Goliath matchups, this contest will be for you.
The Germans come in young, but with a cavalcade of young talent that could develop into something special down the road.
The Czechs, on the other hand, are simply on-hand due to the invitation list's massive expansion.
Luckily for fans, this will turn out one of two ways: with a mash-the-ball offensive onslaught or with one of the bigger upsets in recent international baseball history. For me, that's enough reason to watch, regardless of which outcome we receive.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!