By Gary Anderson

March 27 - Sixteen nations will head to Haarlem for the 2014 Women's World Softball Championships ©WBSCThe World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) has announced the 16 teams due to take part in this year's Women's World Softball Championships which will be staged in Europe for the first time.

Dutch city Haarlem will host the 14th edition of the tournament which will see the maximum number of teams taking part with hosts the Netherlands joined by fellow European sides the Czech Republic, Great Britain, Italy and Russia.

No European nation has managed to medal at the Championships which first took place in Melbourne in 1965.

Australia, winners pf that inaugural tournament, took bronze last time out in Whitehorse, Canada, and they will be joined by 1982 champions New Zealand as the Oceania representatives.

Defending champions Japan will be looking to secure their third world title to add to their win on home soil in Osaka in 1970 and will be out to maintain their consistent form which has also seen them finish as runners-up in 2006 and 2010.

Two-time silver medallists China and 1982 runners-up Chinese Taipei complete the Asian challenge.

The United States surprisingly lost out to the Japanese in 2012 and will be determined to reclaim their top spot as they go in search of a tenth title, having only failed to claim a medal of any colour at one World Championship in 1982.

Canada are the only other Americas nation to claim a podium position with silver in 1978 and bronze in 2002 and they will be joined by Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Botswana will be the sole representative from Africa.

Will Canada complete their World Championship medal set by taking gold in Haarlem this year? ©WBSCWill Canada complete their World Championship medal set by taking gold in Haarlem this year? ©WBSC

WBSC and International Softball secretary general Beng Choo Law visited Haarlem recently to check on the city's progress for hosting the Championships which are due to run from August 15 to 24, and praised the efforts of local organisers.

"The Softball World Championship provides a dedicated international platform for women athletes to shine and be the focus of sport, and the ticket sales being generated for this world event highlights the spectator interest, and the power and potential of softball as a promoter of women's sport, helping shape a sporting world that is more balanced and relevant to women," said Beng.

"I am confident the historic first-ever Women's World Championship in Europe will further deepen baseball and softball's collective global footprint, especially in Europe, and will deliver an excellent showpiece in women's sport, leaving a truly unique and lasting legacy for the city of Haarlem."

Organisers claim over half of tickets have been sold for the Championships so far, with online sales being chiefly driven by fans from outside countries.

For more information on the 2014 Women's World Softball Championships and to purchase tickets click here.

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