5. Minor League Cricket
A year later than first planned, Minor League Cricket is set for its first official season in 2021. The 24-team semi-professional T20 League forms a pathway to the USA national team, as well as to the forthcoming six-team Major League Cricket in 2022.
Although it is not the first attempt to build a nationwide professional league in the USA, Minor League Cricket comes with the backing of numerous high-profile investors including Times of India. Whilst the plans are certainly ambitious, they come with significant financial support and form part of a larger strategy which may lead to success.
The 24 teams are divided into four regional conferences, focused on areas with strong local leagues. The West Conference features 6 teams all based in California. The Central Conference covers Texas, Chicago and Michigan. The South Conference contains Florida, Atlanta and North Carolina whilst the East region is New York, New Jersey, New England and Washington D.C. Each conference will play a round-robin event, with the top side in each qualifying for the national finals. A full season will feature nearly 200 T20 games. However, the 2021 season is likely to be shorter than first planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minor League Cricket forms part of the foundations towards USA Cricket’s push for full membership by 2030. The event could feature a number of high-profile cricketers ‘retiring’ to the USA. The list includes the likes of New Zealand’s Corey Anderson and England’s Liam Plunkett. The hope is that these players will help accelerate the development of local talent to drive the national team forward.