Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the world, followed by around 2.5 billion fans worldwide, and in recent years it has become dominated by a selection of franchise Twenty20 competitions. This has occurred as league-based T20 tournaments such as the Indian Premier League (IPL) have amassed an enormous global viewership, even managing to attract those that might have initially written the sport off as boring, or too slow.
In the UK, the newly created Hundred competition has aimed to do a similar thing, aiming to simplify the somewhat complicated sport into something that anyone can enjoy, an attempt that has been undoubtedly successful. However, what you might not have expected is for a similar franchise competition to pop up in the USA, a country where cricket has never been particularly popular, and whose national team have failed to ever qualify for the ICC T20 World Cup! So, what on earth is Major League Cricket, and how did it come about?
What is Major League Cricket?
Well, Major League Cricket is a Twenty20 cricket league that takes place in America and had its inaugural season in 2023. The format is simple: the league is made up of six different teams, who play each other in a round-robin competition, before a four-game play-off phase takes place to decide the overall winner. For its first season, the MLC tournament took place over just three weeks, with each game taking place at either the 15,000-capacity Grand Prairie Stadium in Texas, or the smaller Church Street Park ground in North Carolina.
Below, we have compiled a table to highlight each of the six teams in the league, their home ground, and who they are owned by. Although all the teams are owned by American Cricket Enterprises (ACE), who operate the league, each one is assigned investor-operators, who have invested in the MLC and are therefore given a team to run.
|Los Angeles Knight Riders||Irvine, California||Great Park Cricket Stadium (for 2024)||Kolkata Knight Riders (franchise)|
|MI New York||Brooklyn, New York||Marine Park Cricket Stadium (for 2024)||Mumbai Indians (franchise)|
|San Francisco Unicorns||San Jose, California||Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Stadium (for 2024)||Partnership with Victoria|
|Seattle Orcas||Redmond, Washington||Marymoor Cricket Community Park (for 2024)||Delhi Capitals, Satya Nadella, GMR Group|
|Texas Super Kings||Grand Prairie, Texas||Grand Prairie Stadium||Chennai Super Kings|
|Washington Freedom||Washington, D.C.||George Mason Cricket Stadium (for 2024)||Partnership with New South Wales|
As you can see, whilst the league is currently in its infancy, ACE have big plans, with the MLC’s six teams all aiming to have their own home stadium ready by the start of the 2024 season. It is also clear that there is plenty of investment in the competition from more traditional cricketing nations, such as India and Australia, and this should allow the league to recruit some of the world’s top players.
Furthermore, the location of each of the teams was decided by USA Cricket CEO Iain Higgins, who wanted to tactically place the newly formed teams where they might receive good local support. In the first iteration of the MLC, which took place between July 13 and July 30, 2023, the competition was won by MI New York, who defeated Seattle Orcas by seven wickets in the final. So, where did the idea for an American cricket competition originate?
Why Was the MLC Created?
Well, perhaps surprisingly, there have been attempts to create a Twenty20 cricket competition in the USA for a number of years, but these have largely been unsuccessful. For instance, back in 2004, a T20 league called “Pro Cricket” was created in an attempt to promote the sport in the US, but this was canned after just one season due to poor attendances.
Similarly, in 2009, a competition named the American Premier League was created, but never came to fruition, despite securing a partnership with New Zealand Cricket. However, neither of these attempts could even come close to matching the vast amount of global investment that has been poured into the MLC.
ACE, who operate the league, invested a reported $1 billion into it back in 2019, with the original aim being that the USA would have a domestic T20 league by 2021. Alongside this, Minor League Cricket (MiLC) was simultaneously created as a second-tier competition, and completed its first season in 2021. Following delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was eventually announced in November 2022 that the first MLC campaign would take place in 2023, and a draft would be held in February of the same year. So, what sort of players were choosing to play in such an unusual league?
Who Are Some of the Biggest Players in the MLC?
The answer may surprise you! Below, we have compiled a table to highlight each team’s captain, along with any other stars of the cricketing world that are on the team’s roster.
|Team||Captain||Other Notable Players|
|Los Angeles Knight Riders||Sunil Narine (WI)||Jason Roy (ENG), Lockie Ferguson (NZ), Andre Russell (WI)|
|MI New York||Kieron Pollard (WI)||Trent Boult (NZ), Kagiso Rabada (SA), Rashid Khan (AFG)|
|San Francisco Unicorns||Aaron Finch (AUS)||Marcus Stoinis (AUS), Lungi Ngidi (SA), Haris Rauf (PAK)|
|Seattle Orcas||Wayne Parnell (SA)||Quinton de Kock (SA), Mitchell Marsh (AUS), Angelo Perera (SL)|
|Texas Super Kings||Faf du Plessis (SA)||Darren Bravo (WI), Imran Tahir (SA), David Miller (SA)|
|Washington Freedom||Moises Henriques (AUS)||Anrich Nortje (SA), Adam Milne (NZ), Marco Jansen (SA)|
As you can see, the league is certainly not lacking in global icons of the cricketing world, and although some of them are past their peak, they should surely help to raise the quality of the league long-term, as each team is allowed up to nine overseas players. With the immense bowling talent of MI New York, it is no wonder that they were able to win the league’s first season with relative ease!
What is the Future of the MLC?
After a successful first year, it appears that the MLC’s first port of call is finishing the construction of the six teams’ home stadiums, to allow the competition’s audience to spread across the US. Furthermore, given that the country are joint hosts of the 2024 T20 World Cup, along with the West Indies, the new stadiums will then be used by cricket fans from all over the world, helping to further raise the sport’s profile within the USA.
Furthermore, the MLC will also be hoping to attract even more top-class talent to play in their league, with former world No.1 Test batsman Steve Smith touted as one who could make the move Stateside. This news came after Smith agreed to become a brand ambassador for Washington Freedom, who he might be playing for very soon! ACE are clearly ambitious, so the MLC is certainly one to look out for, especially if more of the world’s greatest players decide to take part.