DURHAM, N.C. -- USA Baseball will offer more National Team developmental and identification opportunities in 2012, the federation announced Thursday. The move will affect youth-level on-field programming -- USA Baseball National Teams and associated identification events -- for athletes ages 13-17.

The changes more closely align USA Baseball with the new competition calendar adopted by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) at its congress in Dallas last December. The IBAF announced that beginning in 2012 it will host 12U, 15U, 18U, 21U, and Women's championship events, each on an every-other-year basis. An 18U, 15U and Women's Worlds are scheduled for this year.

Effective immediately, USA Baseball will add a 15U National Team that will compete internationally, and 14U and 17U National Team Development Programs. The federation will no longer field National Teams at the 14U and 16U age groups. While the 15U National Team will be selected, train and compete using traditional models, the development programs are new for USA Baseball. Each development program will feature a select number of invited players -- chosen from sanctioned USA Baseball selection events -- who will train with National Team coaches and compete in intrasquad exhibitions. The 14U and 17U National Team Development Programs will serve as additional identification opportunities for the following year's 15U and 18U National Teams.

USA Baseball will continue to compete in continental events that serve as qualifier for World Championships at each of the new National Team age levels. The COPABE-sanctioned tournaments are traditionally held every-other-year during IBAF off-years at each respective age level.

"This is an exciting initiative not only for USA Baseball, but for all youth-level athletes playing our national pastime," said USA Baseball President Mike Gaski. "Our goal as the national governing body of amateur baseball is to grow the game at the grassroots level and to further develop the sport through all age groups. We feel like these changes only further our efforts in both of those areas."

In addition to the new National Teams and developmental programming, USA Baseball will also be making several changes to its events in 2012. The 14U and 16U Championships -- formerly known as the Junior Olympics -- will shift and expand to accommodate a third age group, and will now be referred to as the 14U, 15U and 17U Championships. Each event will continue to be held across an east and west region, with Arizona and Florida serving as the primary hosts.

USA Baseball's cup events will have a new look in 2012 as well. The 16U Cup will continue to be held in Cary, N.C., at the USA Baseball National Training Complex, while the 14U Cup and new-for-2012 18U Cup will no longer exist. The National Team Identification Series (NTIS) will also be affected by the changes, as its three age divisions will shift from a 13U, 15U, 17U format to a 14U, 16U, 17U model which identifies athletes for the following season's 15U and 18U National Teams, and 17U National Team Development Program opportunities.

A complete list of FAQs regarding the changes can be found here.

"Next summer we will be providing more identification and developmental opportunities for these athletes than ever before," said Paul Seiler, USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO. "It will provide an increased number of players with high-caliber coaching and instruction, while also allowing for a more effective National Team selection process for our organization."

USA Baseball has made no decision or announcement regarding the 12U and 21U levels. The next 12U championship is scheduled for 2013, while the inaugural 21U event will be in 2014. The 18U, Collegiate, Women's and Professional Team programs will continue to move forward unchanged.

The on-field changes also require updates to USABaseball.com, USA Baseball's online home, powered by Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM). USA Baseball is working with MLBAM to have all changes in place by the end of March 2012, and any updates that require feedback or information prior to that date will be posted to the website first and/or will be communicated with participants directly.

USA Baseball has fielded a 14U National Team since 2007, and its 16U National Team has competed internationally since 1997. Both programs took home a gold medal in 2011, at the COPABE 14U/A Pan American Championships and the IBAF Youth 16U/AA World Baseball Championships, respectively.