Things just got a whole lot easier for Nevada to qualify for the Little League World Series.
Five years after Mountain Ridge became the state’s first team to reach South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Little League announced on Saturday it is expanding the World Series by four teams to 20 and that its complex will receive a $15 million facelift.
Two teams from both the United States and international brackets will be added beginning in 2021, when tournament play will expand by one day.
Two new regions will be created in the United States.
One will be named the Mountain and consist of Nevada, Montana, Wyoming and Utah.
The other will be a Metro Region consisting of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, with Pennsylvania remaining in the Mid-Atlantic.
What this means for Nevada is that whichever team emerges as state champion each year will no longer have to win a West Region that includes Little League powers Northern California, Southern California and Hawaii.
The two California divisions hold the U.S. records for most appearances (48) and championships (seven).
Hawaii has made it 13 times, won two titles and advanced to this year’s U.S. Championship game before falling to Louisiana 9-5 on Saturday.
Montana made the World Series in 2011. Wyoming and Utah have never qualified.
Mountain Ridge defeated a team from Northern California in 2014 to reach Williamsport, eventually being named U.S. champion when a squad from Chicago forfeited the title for using players outside its designated geographic area.
“We’re excited,” Little League President and CEO Stephen D. Keener told reporters at Howard J. Lamade Stadium. “The expansion will give more kids the opportunity to make it to the World Series. We recognize the value and opportunity it provides to hundreds of kids every year.”
And, undoubtedly, more teams will help the tournament’s bottom line.
An event dominated by the presence of ESPN cameras and sponsorships from such companies as Spalding, Oakley, Cannon and Subway counts $25 million in annual revenue, including $7 million in TV rights.
It was also announced the expansion will include Cuba, Puerto Rico and Panama receiving automatic berths on a rotating basis into the international bracket.
A facility facelift will include two new dormitories, lighted practice fields and improved infirmary and laundry options.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.
Top U.S. states for Little League World Series appearances:
1. California, 48
2. Texas, 25
3. Florida, 22
4. (Tie) Connecticut and Pennsylvania, 20
Nevada has one (2014).