The Little League® International Tournament is a unique time of the season, a fresh beginning in some respect, with new teams forming and the opportunity to create even more memories. While Tournament rules often mirror those in the regular season, there are some key differences parents need to be aware of. Here’s a look at some Little League Tournament Play rules and regulations:
The Little League International Tournament is the most widely known youth sports tournament in the world. There are six levels of tournament play in Little League Baseball® and five within Little League Softball®, with opportunities for players ages 8 to 16. The tournaments start at the District level, and teams must win their way to advance through the International Tournament. The 8- to 10-Year-Old and 9- to 11-Year-Old Tournaments culminate at the State Level, while the Little League, Little League Intermediate (50/70) Baseball, Junior League, and Senior League divisions all conclude at a World Series Tournament. Leagues pay a one-time fee to enter each team into the Little League International Tournament, with 100 percent of that fee returning to local Little League teams that advance through the International Tournament to help offset costs.
Players are eligible for Tournament Play provided they meet the criteria established by Little League’s “Residency and School Attendance Player Eligibility Requirement.” In all divisions, any eligible player who has participated in 60 percent of the regular season games by the start of Tournament Play in their respective district is eligible to play. At the teenage divisions, local leagues have the flexibility to structure their regular season teams to ensure the best experience for their players, while still forming tournament teams in the same or different divisions, as long those teams are comprised of players who meet all residency/school, age, and participation eligibility requirements.
The local league Board of Directors may waive the requirement for Little League players to participate in a percentage of their teams’ Little League regular season games for illness or injury.
Selecting a Tournament Team
The method of selecting a Tournament Team is to be determined by the local league Board of Directors. While methods vary, Little League recommends multiple groups within a local league participate in a fair selection. These groups may include players, league officers, team managers, team coaches, and volunteer umpires. Little League believes players should have a say in who makes a Tournament Team. It is the organization’s experience that players are often objective in the selection process, have an intuitive respect for fellow players, and appreciate the opportunity for their opinions to be heard.
Number of Players and Coaches on a Team
For most divisions, Tournament teams include a maximum of fourteen players, one manager, and two coaches. For the Senior League division, teams include a maximum of sixteen players, one manager, and two coaches.
If a tournament team has thirteen or more eligible players in uniform at a game, then every player will participate in each game for a minimum of one at-bat. If a tournament team has twelve or fewer players in uniform at a game, then every player will participate in each game for a minimum of six consecutive defensive outs and bat at least one time. Beginning with the 2018 season, Little League has provided more structure for how managers must ensure all their players are meeting their mandatory play requirements. A manager’s failure/refusal to insert players into the line-up as outlined in the rule shall result in immediate ejection of the manager and removal for the remainder of the International Tournament. There are no mandatory play requirements at the Senior League levels.
It’s important for parents to be reminded that participating in Tournament Play is a choice, and that while it is a privilege to play, it is also a commitment with added practices and games. If you realize that your son or daughter has several conflicts, it may be a wise decision to pass on a tournament selection, and allow another Little Leaguer® to share in the experience. For those parents who decide to skip Tournament Play or those who have a Little Leaguer who did not make All-Stars, there is plenty of other opportunities to play in the summer through Little League’s Special Game Program.
For even more information on the Little League International Tournament, visit LittleLeague.org/Tournament. This is a resource for local league administrators, but has vast amounts of information to help all parents and volunteers during the Tournament Season.