Olympic softball, explained: How group play, standings work in 2021 tournament format

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(Credit: Getty Images)

The more isn't always the merrier.

Olympic softball has, unfortunately, been an on-again-off-again event since first being introduced in 1996, with the last two Games not hosting any softball, much to the chagrin of Team USA and the rest of the softball-starved world.

No matter, though: softball is back in the Olympic spotlight in 2021, and with just six teams in the mix, participation is down from eight squads in 2008, 2004 and 2000, making for a lighter field — and one that the United States should score a gold medal in. It would be their fourth gold overall, and their fifth medal in as many Olympics in which softball has been held.

Here's what you need to know about the 2021 Olympic softball tournament.

MORE: Full TV schedule to watch Olympic softball games

How the 2021 Olympics softball tournament works

The Olympic softball tournament is actually an easier tournament to understand and follow ahead of the first game on July 20. Where as Olympic games in the past had group play and a page-playoff system, this year is much more straightforward with less teams to play:

Qualifying

In all, there are six teams which qualified for the 2021 Olympics: Japan, the United States, Italy, Mexico, Canada and Australia. Here's how they made it in:

 Japan was an auto-qualifier for being the host country.

 The United States won the 2018 Women's Softball World Championship, earning a qualifying bid for the Olympics.

 At an Africa/Europe qualifying event in 2019, Italy won, allowing them a bid.

— At an Americas qualifying event in 2019, Canada and Mexico emerged, earning bids for the Olympics.

— In an Asia/Oceania qualifying tournament in 2019, Australia won, allowing them an appearance for the 2021 Olympics.

Tournament

The softball tournament is fairly simple: Each team will play each other once in a single round-robin tournament for 15 games total. Games will be played in a two stadiums outside of Tokyo, in Yokohama and Fukushima.

After those 15 games were played, the field advances to the final stage: The top two teams vying for the gold medal in the gold medal game on July 27. The bronze medal game between the third- and fourth-place teams precedes it on July 27.

Olympics softball standings

Standings work like a normal baseball or softball season will: Each team will play each other once, with the top two squads advancing to the gold medal game. The third- and fourth-placed teams land in the bronze medal game.

Place Team Games played Wins Losses Runs for Runs against Run differential
1 Japan 3 3 0 16 3 +13
2 United States 3 3 0 5 0 +5
3 Canada 3 2 1 11 2 +9
4 Australia 3 1 2 3 15 -12
5 Mexico 3 0 3 2 9 -7
6 Italy 3 0 3 0 8 -8

Last updated: July 24

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