FIBA announced several changes to the World Cup of Basketball on Sunday via the Associated Press and ESPN.com. The 2018 event will be pushed back to 2019 and will act as a 2020 Olympic qualifier, along with four qualifying tournaments that will be held in four separate zones.
In the past, the winner of the world championship would automatically qualify for the Olympics, but every other team besides the host would have to earn a spot by placing high enough in continental tournaments. This would force successful teams to play many more games over the course of three consecutive years. FIBA’s recent changes to the schedule are designed to remedy this, as many NBA teams expressed concern for their players getting worn down or injured during offseason, summer competition.
FIBA also announced that the field of the World Cup of Basketball, formerly known as the world championship, will be expanded from 24 to 32 teams and will be held next in 2014 in Spain and then every four years beginning in 2019. The qualification period for the tournament will now be held over a period of two years starting in November 2017.
We will have to see if the United States can defend their 2010 Naismith Trophy in Spain in 2014, as there are sure to be plenty of worthy contenders as the game of basketball continues to grow around the world. The U.S. has four titles in all, but not as many as the former Yugoslavia, which has five.