Learn the Format of the NCAA Division 1 College World Series

College World Series - Virginia v. Vanderbilt 2015
College World Series - Virginia v. Vanderbilt 2015. Peter Aiken/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

The road to the NCAA Division I College World Series leads to Omaha, Nebraska, but it starts on college campuses nationwide. As of April 2018, the tournament is composed of a 64-team bracket: 31 conference champions automatically qualify, and the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee offers 33 teams at-large bids to fill out the field after the regular season concludes.

Tournament History

The series began in 1947 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, when California beat Yale to become the first NCAA baseball champion. It moved to Wichita, Kansas, in 1949 and in 1950 moved to Omaha, which has been its home ever since. The championship has seen several iterations before expanding in 1999 to a month-long, 64-team team tournament, up from 48 teams the previous year. Qualifying for the prestigious tourney is a relatively long and challenging process.

Opening Round Regionals

The tournament starts at regional sites throughout the country, where each of the tournament's top 16 teams hosts three schools in the opening round. This double-elimination tournament pits No. 1 seeds (the hosts) against No. 4 seeds and No. 2 seeds against No. 3 spots. The winners of this opening round face off in the second round, with the losers heading to an elimination bracket.

The winner of the second round advances to the finals of this tournament undefeated, while the loser plays the winner of the elimination bracket to determine who plays the undefeated team in the finals. Should the undefeated team lose this finals game, a second game decides who advances.

The Super Regionals

The winners of the 16 opening-round tournaments are then split into eight super regionals announced by the NCAA, where two teams face off in a best-of-three series. The higher seed is the home team in the first game, while the lower seed plays as the home team for the second game. If a third game is necessary, a coin flip determines the home team for that matchup.

If both teams have the same seed, the winner of a coin flip is the home team in game one, and the loser of the coin flip is the home team in game two. A second coin flip determines the home team in game three, if necessary.

Being the home team generally provides great advantages, the NCAA notes, saying that it was "home sweet home" for the host teams in the 2017 Division I baseball Super Regionals:

"The eight hosts went a combined 15-3 in their best-of-three series, with six teams clinching College World Series berths with 2-0 series victories. Host teams started with an 8-0 record to begin the round—a new Super Regionals record."

The College World Series

The eight super regional winners advance to the College World Series in Omaha. The final field is separated into two four-team, double-elimination brackets, which are seeded by the NCAA and play the same format as in the first round. The winners of those tournaments meet in one best-of-three championship series to determine the NCAA college baseball champion.