By Gary Anderson

December 21 - The United States have topped the Word Baseball rankings for the first time in nearly five years ©Getty ImagesThe United States have ended Cuba's four-year reign to top the World Baseball Rankings as 11 of the top 20 sides come from the Americas region.

The end-of-year table sees Cuba dropping to third place for the first time since the implementation of the ranking system in 2009, while Japan finished the year in second - its highest ever position.

Despite a disappointing third round exit in March's World Baseball Classic, the US went on to secure gold medals at the Under-12 Baseball World Cup in July, beating hosts Chinese Taipei 8-1 in the final, and Under-18 Baseball World Cup in September, winning a thrilling 3-2 final against Japan in Taichung.

Added to this was a US clean sweep at the historic five-game "Friendship" series against Cuba, who competed on US soil for the first time in over 17 years.

Cuba did, however, register a win on the international stage as they defeated hosts the Netherlands in the final of the 2013 World Port Tournament in Rotterdam.

The US collegiate team did not fare as well in a five-game series with their Japanese counterparts, who bested the Americans on three occasions to add to a 3-0 win over Chinese Taipei - who finish fourth in the world rankings - in their recent Baseball Challenge series.

Japan also began the year with a third-place finish at the World Baseball Classic, while also taking bronze at the Under-12 Baseball World Cup and silver at the Under-18 edition.

One of the biggest movers on the rankings list are the Dominican Republic, who jumped from 13th to fifth helped in no small part by its victory in the World Baseball Classic, while the Netherlands ends 2013 as the highest ranked European nation in sixth place.

To view the complete World Baseball Rankings list click here.

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