IT'S A big year ahead for the White Sox with their place booked for the Softball World Cup in Oklahoma City in the United States.

With an eighth place world ranking, the team made the grade to compete against the best teams in the world.

"We're pretty pleased to be going," says head coach Kevin Gettins.

The year will see the Sox blooding in their newly named squad including four new caps at tournaments around the country, in preparation for the World Cup.


Last month they had their first big test at the Down Under Series in Sydney against two of the world's best teams, Australia ranked No 2 and world No 1, Japan.

It was a huge opportunity for the New Zealand girls to mix with top-ranked teams and gave coaches the chance to find out where they are as a team.

The wider squad of 25 players includes nine potential players overseas in America on scholarships.

They are players who Gettins hopes to call upon come World Cup time in July as they look to build a strong, competitive group of women.

"We've got a pretty good understanding of our player base so we have a good understanding of who's out there. There's always a couple of positions that players will have to fight for."

It's all about building strength and depth in the squad, preparation that will be vital if softball is to be named an Olympic sport once again.

An announcement is expected in August from the International Olympic Committee. If it does go ahead, Gettins says it will be a game-changer for women's softball, not only in New Zealand but around the world.

With the World Champs held every two years, they'll have a focus for the 2018 World Cup which will be the qualifier for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

"This year is really the start of our preparation for the 2018 World Cup, that is our goal," says Gettins.

Softball and baseball were dropped as an Olympic sport after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, however the Tokyo Olympic organisers have shortlisted both sports to be added come 2020.

Gettins knows that getting to the Olympics is a tough ask but he says his team has a realistic chance to qualify.