Classic qualifiers to use modified double-elimination bracket

Winner-take-all tourneys to decide final four spots in '17 event

Classic qualifiers to use modified double-elimination bracket

The run-up to the 2017 World Baseball Classic begins Feb. 11 with a double-elimination qualifying tournament in Sydney -- with a bit of a dramatic twist.

Four teams will compete in a modified double-elimination bracket, where the winner of the winner's bracket and the winner of the loser's bracket square off in a do-or-die championship game. The winner of that game advances to the Classic.

Unlike a typical double-elimination-style bracket, if the winner's bracket champion -- who would be 2-0 at the time -- falls to the loser's bracket champ (who is 2-1), there would be no additional game. This means a team could finish with only one loss, but still miss out on qualification if it loses the final game.

The winner-take-all style should create plenty of drama, with one game between the group's two best teams deciding who advances to the World Baseball Classic. The first such game will take place Feb. 14 in the group featuring Australia, New Zealand, Philippines and South Africa.

Twelve teams have already qualified for the '17 Classic, meaning four spots remain available. After February's qualifiers in Sydney, three other four-team qualifiers will take place in Mexicali, Panama City and Brooklyn. They will also use the modified double-elimination format, with each winner advancing to the World Baseball Classic.

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.