Although bandy has been played since the 19th century, the first men's world championships were only played in 1957, and the first women's ones were only in 2004. From 1961-2003, the men's championships were played every two years, but has since then been played annually. The WCS in 2010 was first cancelled, but then Moscow agreed to organize it on short notice.  In 2014 it is planned to be played in Sochi at the same time as the Olympic Games.
For a long time, only four countries competed in the world championships: the Soviet Union, Sweden, Finland and Norway, with the Soviet Union as the dominating country. Since then, more countries have joined the tournaments, starting with the United States in 1985. The interest for the sport has spread to other parts of Europe, North America and Asia, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 also opened the way for separate national teams from the former states of that union. The latest number of participants are 13 for men and 7 for women.
With more nations competing, the championship is now played in two series, group A for the best 6 teams and group B for the next 7 teams. In each championship, the best team in group B goes into a playoff match with the team who came bottom of the A-group, replacing them if they win. If more than 13 national teams want to participate in 2012, a group C will be created. There will be no playoff match. The last team of group A is automatically relegated and the 1st team of group B promoted.