PHOENIX -- If the baseball universe aligns properly, three Latin American teams and the U.S. will converge on Miami's Marlins Park from March 12-16, when the World Baseball Classic convenes for the second round.
The U.S. and Mexico could come out of the first round in Pool D, which includes Canada and Italy and plays from March 7-10. The Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Puerto Rico are competing with Spain down in San Juan, P.R., on the same dates.
The confluence of three powerhouse Latin teams and the U.S. would create an intriguing bracket in the one-year-old ballpark located in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood just beyond the outskirts of downtown.
The other second-round pool is slated to be played in Tokyo Dome from March 8-12.
MLB Network will broadcast all 39 games in a tournament that eventually closes with the semifinals and final March 17-19 in San Francisco's AT&T Park.
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"It would be great to get to Miami this time," said Dominican starter Edinson Volquez, whose D.R. club didn't make it out of the first round at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in the 2009 Classic. "I hope we can do better. That we can pass on to the second round. We're all aware of that, and we know what we have to do. It's a tough bracket. We're going to do the best we can."
The second round is a double-elimination bracket, meaning that the first pair of teams to lose two games is out.
March 11 will be a workout day for all four teams at Marlins Park. The round begins on March 12 with a day-night, separate-admission doubleheader. In the first game at 1 p.m. ET, the winner of the San Juan pool plays the runner-up from the Arizona pool. And at 8 p.m., the winner of the Arizona pool faces the runner-up from the San Juan pool.
The two losers from Miami's Day 1 play at 7 p.m. on March 13, and the winner from Day 1 will face the winner from Day 2 at 7 p.m. on March 14. The two winners of the bracket will be decided after another 7 p.m. game on March 15. And seeding for the semifinals will be determined when the two pool survivors play at 1 p.m. on March 16.
The final game is essential, because it will decide who plays the first semifinal game in San Francisco on March 17 at 9 p.m. In that one, the winner from the Tokyo pool will play the runner up from Miami, giving the Miami winner a key off-day.
The Miami winner plays the Tokyo runner-up on March 18 at 9 p.m., with the final game at 9 p.m. on March 19.
If this all sounds confusing, it won't be as the tournament sorts itself out. Just figure there will be at least one very meaningful game every day.
The U.S. is slated to play three of the premier games in the round-robin opening round at Chase Field: On March 8 at 7 p.m. MT against Mexico, on March 9 at 7 p.m. against Italy, and March 10 at 1 p.m. against Canada.
Japan won the first two Classics with right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka named tournament MVP on both occasions. This time, the Japanese won't play on U.S. soil, unless they survive the first and second rounds, both slated for Japan.
This year, Japan is joined by Cuba, China and upstart Brazil in its first-round bracket this weekend at Fukuoka, Japan. In Taichung, Taiwan, on the same dates is Pool B's bracket, which includes Korea, Chinese Taipei, Australia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The two winners from each of those brackets meet in Tokyo Dome on March 8-12.
In Puerto Rico, the bracket opens next Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. ET, with Venezuela playing Team D.R. Like 2009, when the Dominicans opened by losing the opener to the Netherlands, Volquez is expected to be on the mound.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.