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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Here’s Why Cricket Is Having a Major American Moment

  • The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup begins in Dallas on Saturday.
  • The U.S.’s Major League Cricket just received a key sanction—and credibility.
San Francisco Unicorns

The second-most popular sport in the world is finally gaining significant momentum Stateside.

On Saturday, a match in Dallas between the U.S. and Canada will officially begin the 2024 International Cricket Council Men’s T20 World Cup. The biannual tournament—which has expanded from 16 to 20 teams and will hand out a record $10 million in prize money—uses a different format of the sport in which matches play out in just a few hours instead of multiday affairs.

The U.S. is holding 16 matches in Dallas, New York, and South Florida over the next month as a cohost alongside the West Indies. (You may have already heard about the $30 million, 34,000-seat temporary stadium constructed on Long Island.) 

While the U.S. likely won’t be hoisting a trophy at the end of the T20 World Cup (India, Australia, and England are the favorites), its domestic league scored a huge victory this week. The ICC granted official List-A status to Major League Cricket, which drew roughly 70,000 fans across its inaugural 15-game season last year. That means players’ performance will now count toward their career stats, which wasn’t the case in Season 1, and further incentivize top talent to consider playing in the league.

“I was very pleasantly surprised,” Anand Rajaraman, a co-owner of MLC’s San Francisco Unicorns, tells Front Office Sports. “I thought it would take us a couple seasons to show the ICC that the quality of cricket is good.”

Since the U.S. is not a full member of the ICC, an exception had to be made to give MLC its new status. “The ICC very much wants to promote cricket in the U.S.,” Rajaraman says.

Game of Expansion

MLC is expanding its schedule to 21 games for Season 2, which begins July 5, less than a week after the T20 World Cup concludes, with many top players from the World Cup expected to stick around and also compete in this upcoming MLC season. In 2025, MLC plans to play 34 games. 

The six-team league is also exploring adding four expansion franchises in the near future. In addition to San Francisco, MLC also has teams in Los Angeles; New York; Seattle; Washington, D.C.; and Texas. “It was always intended to be a 10‑team league,” MLC CEO Vijay Srinivasan told The ­Guardian.

The Texas Super Kings are currently the only MLC team with a permanent home venue: Grand Prairie Stadium, also the home of the U.S. men’s national cricket team, which received a $20 million renovation in 2022. But plans are in the works for the rest of the league to build comparable stadiums built for hosting cricket. 

With MLC set up for more potential growth in the coming years, cricket’s moment in the U.S. could hit a crescendo in 2028: The sport will return to the Summer Olympics, hosted by Los Angeles, for the first time since 1900.

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