The United States' defence of their world title will start in Ireland ©Getty Images

Group line-ups and dates for next year's Women's Softball World Cup - the first to be played under a new two-stage format - have been confirmed by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC).

The first phase is due to be held from July 11 to 26, with Spain, Italy and Ireland each hosting a group.

Two sides from each six-team group will advance to the finals, set to be played in Italy in 2024.

Two additional wildcards will also be given entry to the finals.

As hosts, Italy are guaranteed a wildcard should they not qualify.

Third-placed teams will be assessed for the other wildcard berths based on past World Cup performance and their place in the WBSC rankings.

The World Cup is due to be begin in Dublin, with Group A unfolding from July 11 to 15.

Ireland, Britain, Australia, reigning champions the United States and African and Asian qualifiers who are yet to be determined are due to face off.

Group B will be played in Valencia from July 18 to 22.

The Netherlands, Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico plus African and Asian qualifiers make up the group.

Group have been drawn for the Women's Softball World Cup ©WBSC
Group have been drawn for the Women's Softball World Cup ©WBSC

July 22 to 26 is the window for Group C matches in Castions di Strada and Buttrio.

Italy, Canada, Venezuela, New Zealand, a wildcard and an Asian team are due to be in action.

The three Asian qualifiers are expected to include Olympic champions Japan.

"The announcement of the composition of our World Cup group is an exciting moment as we build towards the summer of 2023," Softball Ireland President Colum Lavery said.

"We are honoured that Ireland will welcome some of the top nations in July 2023 and we look forward to giving each of them a warm céad míle fáilte when they arrive.

"This tournament presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players to play in a World Cup on their home field and for us to create a strong positive legacy for the game in Ireland, promote all disciplines of the game in Ireland and supercharge the growth of women’s and youth softball."