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S. Korea remains at No. 3 in baseball world rankings


South Korea stayed at No. 3 in the latest baseball's world rankings released Friday.

The World Baseball Softball Confederation said South Korea will head into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as world No. 3 with 4,622 points, behind Japan (6,127) and the United States (4,676).

Chinese Taipei is in fourth with 4,352 points.

The WBSC rankings measure national team performance -- from under-12 to professional -- in WBSC-sanctioned international competitions over a four-year period.

At the most recent WBSC tournament, the Premier12 last November, South Korea finished as the runner-up to Japan.

These rankings will be the basis of the groupings at Tokyo 2020, where six countries will be divided into two groups.

Japan is in as the host country, and South Korea qualified for the Olympics by finishing as the top Asia/Oceania country, other than Japan, at the Premier12. Mexico (the top American nation at the Premier12) and Israel (winner of Africa/Europe qualifying) have also secured their Olympic berths.

The remaining two spots will be filled this spring.

In March, the US will compete at the Americans qualifying event in Arizona, with Canada, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic also in the field. The final qualifying tournament, which will bring together runners-up from regional qualifying events and other representatives, will take place in April in Chinese Taipei.

The US fate will likely determine whether South Korea gets grouped with Japan and plays the opening game at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Fukushima. The venue is only about 70 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which was disabled after suffering major damage from the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, and has since caused concerns about radioactive contamination in the area.

If the US fails to qualify for the Olympics, then Japan and South Korea will be the two highest-ranked teams in the Olympics and will likely be separated in the preliminary round. Should the US make it to Tokyo 2020, it would make South Korea the third best team in the tournament based on world rankings and could put the two Asian rivals in the same group.

After the opening game in Fukushima, the remaining baseball matches will be played at Yokohama Stadium in Yokohama, south of Tokyo. (Yonhap)