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Saturday, June 22, 2024

MLB Continues International Push in South Korea

  • League expands World Tour to fertile market for baseball fandom
  • Week-long gap between games in Seoul, other season openers creates issues for fantasy sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

MLB will open its 2024 season in one of its biggest international markets.

The league unveiled its 2024 schedule on Thursday, and among the highlights is an expansion of its MLB World Tour. In addition to a previously announced return to London, MLB will stage regular-season games in South Korea and Mexico, plus Spring Training games in the Dominican Republic.

The South Korea games — set for March 20-21 between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres — represent MLB’s first regular-season competition there, advancing beyond the prior exhibition and World Baseball Classic games held in Seoul.

The country has long been a key global market for MLB, most recently enjoying a 36% bump in the 2023 WBC television audience there compared to 2017. Baseball fans’ affinity even outpaces the U.S. in some respects.

Fantasy Frustrations

One segment not entirely in favor of MLB’s Asia campaign is the fantasy sports business. 

As with prior MLB season-opening trips to Japan and Australia, fantasy operators will need to potentially adjust how they schedule draft events, while participants face greater challenges evaluating players.

“These games throw everything off a little bit,” said Greg Ambrosius, a Fantasy Sports Hall of Fame inductee, to Front Office Sports. “We’re typically holding draft events the weekend before full Opening Day — which is now after these Korea games. Then there’s the question of whether somebody there gets hurt or isn’t ready because they haven’t gone long enough in Spring Training.”

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