The World Baseball Classic begins at 11:30 p.m. ET on MLB Network with a matchup between Australia and Chinese Taipei (aka Taiwan).
Here's everything you need to know about the two-week tournament:
The WBC was created in 2005 as a way to keep baseball alive on a global scale in the wake of its removal from the Summer Olympics. While the Olympics always boasted the best of baseball amateurs, the WBC is unique in that it offers high-level competition between the best professional players around the world.
Read More: WBC Roster Breakdowns
Now in its third iteration, the three-round tournament consists of 16 squads from all over the globe: United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Cuba, Netherlands, Australia, Chinese Taipei, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Italy, Canada, and newcomers Brazil and Spain.
The tourney will be played on eight different ball fields in four countries -- Japan, Taiwan, Puerto Rico, U.S. -- with the Championship Round held at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
The 16 countries are competing in a three-round tournament that is similar in form to the World Cup, meaning there is a round of pool play followed by elimination rounds until a champion is crowned. Here's the breakdown:
Round 1 - Round Robin - March 2-10
Round 2 - Modified Double Elimination - March 8-16
Championship Round - Single Elimination - March 17-19
While identical to Major League Baseball in about 90 percent of its regulations, a few additional rules are in place at the WBC.
A pitcher is not allowed to take the mound unless:
Also, a pitcher cannot pitch more than 65 pitches per game in Round 1, 80 pitches per game in Round 2, or 95 pitches per game in the Finals.
In the first two rounds of the tournament, any game that features a team up by 10 runs after seven innings or 15 runs after five innings will be called.
What to Watch For
The biggest storyline headed into the tournament seems to be whether Japan can defend its crown for a third time without the help of veterans like Ichiro Suzuki, Yu Darvish, and two-time WBC MVP Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Though the U.S. has not placed better than fourth in the tournament up to now, they boast a strong squad that includes Ryan Braun, Joe Mauer and R.A. Dickey, among others, so Japan will have their work cut out for them if they want to three-peat.
All WBC games will be broadcast on MLB Network and ESPN Deportes, as well as ESPN radio.