The next Women's Softball World Cup finals will be held in large part in Italy ©Getty Images

Ireland, Italy and Spain have been awarded hosting rights to the next Softball World Cup.

The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Executive Board approved the three countries as co-hosts.

Each of the three nations will host a group when the tournament begins next year, while Italy will host the finals in 2024.

A new, expanded format will be used for the first time, with 18 teams divided into three groups of six and the top two teams from each group, plus two wildcards, will advance to the eight-team finals in Italy. 

The 17th edition of the Women's Softball World Cup will be the first to be played in Europe since 2014, when it was staged in The Netherlands.

"We are very proud that Italy is hosting the Women’s Softball World Cup in 2023 and 2024", said Italian Baseball and Softball Federation President Andrea Marcon.

"I believe this choice also comes from the successful organisation of the European Championship in 2021, when we had the opportunity to work side-by-side with WBSC personnel and our facilities were so much appreciated from both the standpoints of play and welcoming."

The Women's Softball World Cup was first held in 1965, with the last tournament taking place in Shiba in Japan. 

The women's softball tournament at this year's World Games in Birmingham in the United States is also doubling as a World Championship.  

The US are the most successful team in the competition's history, with 11 titles, eight more than any other nation, and are reigning world champions.

Japan won the Olympic gold medal on home soil last year.

Dates for the group stage and finals of the upcoming World Cup are yet to be announced.

Buttrio and Castions di Strada in Italy, Fingal in Ireland - a town within County Dublin - and the Valencia Municipal Baseball and Softball Field in Spain have been chosen to stage matches.