Two of the last three Little League World Series champions have come out of Japan. Will 2013 produce yet another international champion?
Looking at the batch of contenders coming to Williamsport, Pa., there's a strong possibility that an international squad claims its fifth title in the last decade.
Not only does Japan once again bring in a strong team to the tournament, but Taiwan and Panama will also be looking to add another championship to their Little League history.
Here's a look at all the teams that will be competing over the next 10 days. A full look at the bracket can be found on the tournament's official site.
|United States Pool Teams|
|Great Lakes||Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores||Grosse Pointe, Mich.|
|Mid-Atlantic||Newark National||Newark, Del.|
|New England||Westport||Westport, Conn.|
|Southeast||South Nashville||Nashville, Tenn.|
|Southwest||Universal||Corpus Christi, Texas|
|West||Eastlake||Chula Vista, Calif.|
|International Pool Teams|
|Asia-Pacific||Ching-Ping||Taoyuan, Chinese Taipei|
|Australia||Perth Metro Central||Perth, Australia|
|Canada||East Nepean||Ottawa, Ontario|
|Caribbean||Samaritana||San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico|
|Europe & Africa||South Moravia||Brno, Czech Republic|
|Latin American||Aguadulce Cabezera||Aguadulce, Panama|
|Japan||Mushashi Fuchu||Tokyo, Japan|
|Mexico||Municipal De Tijuana||Tijuana, Baja Calif.|
Little League World Series website
With all 16 teams from around the globe starting their campaign for the trophy Thursday, Aug. 15, here's a closer look at the international teams that have what it takes to beat anyone else in the field on any given day.
Latin America: Panama
If the names and the faces that make up the Latin America regional representative seem familiar it's because it is the same Panama team that represented the region in 2012.
Even then, this group of youngsters was a threat. It went 3-3 in the tournament, including a trip to the international championship game where it ultimately lost to the eventual champions in Japan.
The Aguadulce Cabezera Little League team appears to be even better this time around. It won all seven of its regional games including victories of 20-0, 10-0 and 8-0 en route to its World Series berth.
The road is set up for them to get back to the championship game, too. Panama will avoid Taiwan and Japan until the semifinals in the international bracket and play Caribbean representative Puerto Rico on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 1 p.m. EDT.
This Taiwan team will be making its first appearance in the Little League World Series, but it has a great chance to continue the rich history of the nation in the tournament.
With 17 titles, Taiwan has produced more Little League World Series than any other country. But none of those titles have come since 1996, when the Asia-Pacific representative won seven out of 10 championships.
This year's Taiwan representative won all six qualifying games with a combination of strong run production and pitching. It went over double digit runs in three of the six games and never gave up more than three runs.
Taiwan will open tournament play against Canada on Friday, Aug. 16 at 1 p.m. EDT.
For the second consecutive year, Japan will be represented by a team from Tokyo as Musashi Fuchu Little League will make its third appearance in Williamsport. Last year's World Series champions came from Tokyo's Kitasuna Little League.
The Kitasuna team put on a memorable power performance in the finals as it bashed five home runs to claim the title. Musashi Fuchu should bring similar power to the table. The team went 4-0 in regional qualifying with 36 runs.
With Japan's track record of developing championship caliber teams, there's no questioning that this team will be one to watch.
They'll take on Europe-Africa representative Czech Republic in the first round on Friday, Aug. 16 at 5 p.m. EDT.