Sixteen Army softball teams and nine Air Force teams are competing this week to determine who has the best women’s and men’s teams in Europe in their respective services and who will advance to the U.S. Forces Europe final four next weekend.
The tournaments will run Thursday through Sunday, with the Army teams competing in Grafenwöhr, Germany, and the Air Force at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Two men’s and women’s teams from each tournament will meet in Aviano to determine the U.S. forces winner.
The winners — and the losers — will make history, because this is supposed to be the final time that such tournaments are held in any sport, according to Air Force and Army sports officials. Plans calling for single, season-ending tournaments that include a mix of teams from both services will start with soccer in the fall.
Both softball tournaments begin with a series of round-robin contests that continue through Friday for the Air Force and Saturday for the Army. Air Force men’s teams follow with a double-elimination tournament on Friday and Saturday. In both tournaments, the top two teams that emerge then play a best-of-three series on Sunday to determine what could be the last U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Air Forces in Europe sports champions.
The Air Force women’s entrants for the final four are already set, because Aviano and Lakenheath have the only two teams entered; the tournament will determine which will be the top seed.
Ramstein Air Base in Germany is back to defend the men’s U.S. Forces Europe title it won last year, but the defending women’s final four champions from SHAPE, Belgium, aren’t fielding a team this year.
Admission is free to all games.