USA Cricket has reaffirmed their intentions to launch a "Minor League" T20 franchise tournament for later this summer that includes teams based in major metropolitan areas from New York to Los Angeles, a precursor to a full-scale "Major League" T20 franchise tournament in 2021.
San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. are among the other locations touted in a USA Cricket press release on Thursday announcing the plans being propelled by USA Cricket's commercial league partner, American Cricket Enterprises.
"One of the reasons that ACE was selected to partner with USA Cricket to develop a professional T20 League was that it demonstrated an understanding of the importance of addressing various fundamental issues within the domestic game in the United States," said USA Cricket chief executive Iain Higgins. "We welcome the significant investment and endeavor that has been put into the development of this exciting new national competition as a building block towards the creation of a fully professional T20 league in the future.
"Whilst there are operational details still to be worked out, we are thrilled to see the amount of progress already made. We look forward to Minor League Cricket delivering a regular diet of competitive domestic cricket and new playing opportunities for domestic cricketers up and down the country in 2020, as the ambitious plans for Major League Cricket continue to be developed in parallel."
Other cities listed as part of the league that have not traditionally hosted national-level cricket events in the USA which are touted to be host sites for franchises are Sacramento, Austin and St. Louis. Meanwhile, the Raleigh, North Carolina suburb of Morrisville will host a team thanks to its multi-million dollar venue at Church Street Park, which will be the site of the national championship on Labor Day weekend in September. However, the Florida facility listed on the franchise league web site is multi-sports facility Brian Piccolo Park in the suburb of Cooper City, not the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, the only ODI certified turf wicket venue in the USA.
Also a surprising omission from the list of franchise cities is Indianapolis. The city's $6 million USD World Sports Park turf wicket venue championed by former Indianapolis Mayor Gregory A. Ballard was used frequently by USA Cricket Association and ICC Americas officials as a host venue for multiple tournaments from its opening in 2015 through 2017.
Cricket administrators and city officials also held discussions around that time of possibly relocating the new headquarters to Indianapolis for both ICC Americas and the newly formed governing body in the USA, which became USA Cricket, before both organisations settled on Colorado Springs, Colorado. No major tournaments have been held there since 2017 though and relations between cricket administrators and city officials have weakened since Mayor Ballard did not seek re-election after his second four-year term ended in 2015.
Many of the locations listed for the league do not have turf wicket facilities, including New York. USA Cricket administrators insinuated that they would be flexible with regards to playing on non-turf wicket venues for certain locations until facilities are upgraded.
"It is extremely exciting for all of us who are involved in it and we collectively feel like this is a game-changing moment for domestic cricket in the USA," Higgins said on Friday night regarding the launch of the Minor League T20 during the USA Cricket AGM on Friday night. "We anticipate that they will include 22 teams playing a regular dose of competitive cricket across the entire summer played on the best available facilities with the majority of those fixtures being played on turf and on venues where investment is being made to improve the quality of those turf wickets and facilities generally.
"We anticipate there being prize money and we anticipate the matches being streamed and some of them being broadcast live in order to add additional impact around this particular tournament."
According to the press release, the competition will be played on a regional basis over the course of nine weeks with a total of 170 matches. Rosters will be made up of semi-pro players and potentially some full-fledged paid professionals while each team will have roster spots guaranteed for players in an U-21 age category. Teams will be divided into four divisions format with the top teams qualifying to advance to a national final from September 5-7 in North Carolina.
USA Cricket also announced that they would also resumed national championship tournaments this summer, including tournaments in men's, U-17 and U-14 boys categories. The last sanctioned national championship by an ICC-affiliated governing body in the USA was the 2015 USA Cricket Association National Championships, which took place that April in Florida.
USA Cricket's release stated that Houston would host both junior national championships while the men's national championship will be held over Memorial Day weekend at a location to be determined from May 23 to 25.