Billed as the “most extensive competition to ever take place in the United States,” the Toyota Minor League Cricket Championship presented by Sling inaugural opening day is merely hours away. The ambitious American T20 league is the first of its kind in a country that has long occupied the imaginations of those wishing to see cricket reach new heights, especially in terms of commercial appeal.
Much like baseball’s Minor Leagues, which are a collection of regional leagues, Minor League Cricket’s 27 teams are distributed across 4 divisions, where most of the competition will occur. For two weekends this season, teams will play across divisions within the two conferences, with the South facing the East and the Central facing the West. Also like baseball, Minor League Cricket will eventually feed into an upcoming Major League, with cricket’s version slated for a 2022 exhibition season and a 2023 full launch, likely featuring six teams. Unlike Minor League Baseball, the MiLC is a weekend league, with the majority of players (while paid per game by their team) making their living in various other professions during the work week.
The league will run from July 31 through October 3, with a total of 218 matches, and over 100 “enhanced streams” in select venues with multiple cameras and commentary. Twelve such games will take place on Saturday, and five more on Sunday, with a total of 24 games for the weekend across nine venues.
Broward County Stadium, the nation’s first approved by the ICC for international play, opens on Saturday as the Ft. Lauderdale Lions face the Empire State Titans at 10am EST. In all, four turf venues will host games this weekend: Broward County Stadium in Lauderhill, Florida; Moosa Stadium in Pearland, Texas; Morgan Hill OSC, in Morgan Hill, CA; and Canyonside Park in San Diego, California.
The league hopes to play a big part in solving the many problems which have plagued cricket within the United States, including lack of quality venues, lack of opportunities for players transitioning from youth to senior cricket, and perhaps most importantly, the lack of a single NGB supported national domestic competition that connects to individual communities, and that further connects those communities to the national effort..
‘Sometimes even in the smaller cities and towns it can be easier to get that traction, and to get that word of mouth amongst the community,’ Major League Cricket’s Vice President of Marketing, Tom Dunmore, said on the Emerging Cricket Minor League Cricket Show. ‘And if the team does a really good job, and the league does a really good job connecting to people there and reaching out and making people really feel part of growing the sport, make them feel that they can contribute to growing the sport within their own city and also nationwide, you can get that core of support behind you to make you grow, and that can almost be more important than throwing money at billboards or online ads or whatever it may be.
‘If we can build these hubs and these supporters in different spots around the country and showcase what the sport can do, it’s not just a matter of “if you build it, they will come,” you’ve got to do the work to make them come as well and build the community around it.’
After eight weeks of regular season games, the top two teams from each division will advance to a playoff, where those eight teams will face off first in a conference semifinal, and then in a conference final and league final, to be held at Church Street Park in Morrisville, North Carolina on October 2 and 3. The winning team will take home $250,000.
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