USA Cricket: The Next NFL Or NBA — Trillion Dollar Bet? | Broken Cricket Dreams

  1. Status of cricket in America & Major League Cricket.
  2. The Money Factor: Sports business & major leagues in US-NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and MLS.
  3. The Broken Dream: Leagues that have failed in America
  4. Where I think USA cricket will go and how you can participate & watch the games.

1. Recent Development: Heavy Investments In USA Cricket

Recently USA Cricket has been in the news for various reasons.

  1. Knight Riders group, the group that owns highly successful franchises of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR), buys stake in the Major League Cricket league.
  2. Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, and other high profile names interested in investing in Major League Cricket, a $1 billion investment.
  3. Ex-cricketers from other nations recruited. South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand internationals Dane Piedt, Sami Aslam, and Corey Anderson respectively have already confirmed their moves (retirement from home country and signing of a 3 year Major League Cricket deal), while World Cup winner Liam Plunkett and other South African expatriates are targeted.

2. So, Where Is American Cricket At the Moment?

Cricket Rankings

In order to understand prospect of cricket in America, we first need to understand where Team USA sits in the cricket world rankings.

USA Cricket — The Administration

After the decline of US cricket in the 20th century, USA Cricket Association (USACA) was created in 1965 as an Associate Member. For the next few decades, USA hovered around qualification tournaments, even qualifying for the 2004 Champions Trophy. However, the downhill spiral started once again, and the organization was expelled in 2017 due to financial and administrative trouble.

The Highlights

  • Rankings: 19/20 (ODI), 34/104* (T20I)
  • Current Captain: Saurabh Netravalkar (replaced Ibrahim Khaleel, ex Indian first class player)
  • Newly Prominent Recruited Players: Xavier Marshall (WI) Rusty Theron (SA), Dane Piedt (SA), Corey Anderson (NZ), Sami Aslam (Pak)
  • Players With CPL* Experience: Hayden Walsh Jr. (now plays for West Indies), Ali Khan (Also selected for the IPL*), Cameron Gannon (BBL), Steven Taylor (ex USA captain), Timroy Allen, Nikhil Dutta, Jasdeep Singh

Cricket In America: Current Development

USA Cricket (USAC) has released a foundational plan for the next decade.

Infrastructure

The Airhogs stadium will be the second professional cricket stadium in the US after Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Here is a list of the major cricket stadiums and facilities in the US:

  1. AirHogs Stadium: Grand Prairer, Texas (under renovation — to become international quality)
  2. Indianapolis World Sports Park: Indianapolis, Indiana, $5.1 million (2014 — multipurpose)
  3. Leo Magnus Cricket Complex ‘Woodley Park’: Los Angeles, California (stadium/cricket facilities)
  4. Moosa Stadium: Houston, Texas (built with ICC rules — hosts ACC)

What is Major League Cricket?

USA Cricket has partnered with the American Cricket Enterprises (ACE), who invested $1 billion in Major League Cricket (MLC).

  • Academies: Investment in youth academies like the Willow Academy (San Francisco/Seattle). Currently there are 2 indoor facilities, 6 grounds, and over 500 students enrolled.
  • Minor League: A precursor to the Major League will be the Minor League Cricket, beginning in 2021. It is a development league that would feed into Major League. In the 2020 Minor League Exhibition tournament featured 24 teams & 155 matches.
  • Sponsors/TV Rights: Apart from Nadella, former CTO of Facebook & Dropbox, CEO of Adobe have also pitched in. ACE has a partnership with Willow TV and the Times of India Group. A full list of sponsors can be found here.

3. The Possibilities: Sport Leagues In America 💲💵💵💲

The North American sports market has a value of a whopping $71 billion and is expected to rise around by 2023.

World Leagues

In Forbes’ top 50 most valuable teams, only 7 teams are non-American. NFL’s Dallas Cowboys tops the list and has 27 teams in the top 50, NBA has 9 teams, 7 for MLB, and none for NHL or MLS.

National Football League (NFL)

  • Year Founded: 1920
  • Teams/Matches Per Season: 32–267 matches
  • Average Attendance: 67, 100 (2019)
  • Total Revenue/TV Viewership : $16.9 billion (2019)
  • Most Valuable Team: Dallas Cowboys: $5.5 billion (value) — #1 Most Valuable in the World
  • Average TV Viewership (Per Game): 16.6 million
  • TV Rights: $4.52 billion (2019)
  • Average Annual Player Salary: $3.26 million (2019/20)

National Basketball Association (NBA)

  • Year Founded: 1946
  • Teams/Matches Per Season: 30 teams (29 US, 1 Canada) — 1312 matches
  • Average Attendance: 17,857 (2019)
  • Most Valuable Team: New York Yankees: $5 billion
  • Average TV Viewership (Per Game): 7.3 million
  • TV Rights: $3.12 billion (2019)
  • Average Annual Player Salary: $8.32 million (2019/20)

Major League Baseball (MLB)

  • Year Founded: 1903
  • Teams/Matches Per Season: 30 (29 US, 1 Canada) -2467 matches
  • Average Attendance: 28,180 (2019)
  • Total Revenue: $10.37 billion (2019)
  • Average TV Viewership (Per Game): 4 million
  • Most Valuable Team: New York Knicks: $4.6 billion
  • TV Rights: $1.65 billion (2019)
  • Average Annual Player Salary: $4.03 million (2019/20)

National Hockey League (NHL)

  • Year Founded: 1917
  • Teams: 31 (24 US, 7 Canada)/extends to 32 teams in 2021–1358 matches
  • Average Attendance: 17,380 (2019)
  • Total Revenue: $5.1 billion (2019)
  • Most Valuable Team: New York Rangers: $1.65 billion
  • Average TV Viewership (Per Game): 1.6 million
  • TV Rights: $220 million (2019)
  • Average Annual Player Salary: $2.69 million (2019/20)

Major League Soccer (MLS)

  • Year Founded: 1996
  • Teams: 26 (23 US, 3 Canada) — 421 matches
  • Average Attendance: 21,310 (2019)
  • Total Revenue: $1.2 billion (2019)
  • Most Valuable Team: Atlanta United : $500 million
  • Average TV Viewership (Per Game): 1.8 million
  • TV Rights: $110 million (2019)
  • Average Annual Player Salary: $410,000 (2019/20)

4. The Broken Dreams: Leagues That Failed in America

All that glitters is not gold.

Competitors to the Big 5

  • NBA: American Basketball League (1961–62), American Basketball Association (1967–76), (2002–08)
  • MLB: Senior Professional Baseball Association (1989–90) — for retired stars
  • NHL: World Hockey Association (1971–79), Roller Hockey International (1993–1999)
  • MLS: North American Soccer League (1968–1984)
  • Alliance of American Football (2018–19): $100 million invested — lost $88 million
  • XFL (2001): Directly competitor to NFL — $ 70 million loss (courtesy WWE’s Vince McMahon) — may return in 2022
  • NFL Europe(1991–2007): Spread Football to Europe? Lost around $30 million/year
  • Arena Football (1987–2009): Internal football league — successful 2 decades but declined eventually

Other Serious Ventures

  • Here are some other niche sports that did not go far in their first attempt.
  • Rugby: Pro Rugby League (2015–17)
  • Lacrosse: National Lacrosse League (1974–75), American Lacrosse League (1988)
  • Ultimate Frisbee: Major League Ultimate (2013–16)
  • Soccer: Women’s United Soccer Association (2000–03) — post US Women’s 1999 FIFA WC victory, Lost around $100 million
  • Baseball: All-American Girls Professional Baseball Association (1943–1954)

Failed Cricket Ventures In the US

What’s more? MLC is not the first attempt to get cricket into Americans.

  • American Premier League (2009): 6 international teams & partnership with NZ cricket with matches in New York, but it fell through before materializing
  • American National Championship (2014) — The Indianapolis World Park stadium was created for this reason with a 3 year deal and public support. Also failed to materialize
  • Cricket All Stars (2015): Sachin Tendulkar XI vs Shane Warne XI held in baseball stadiums across NYC, Houston, and LA. Team made up of retired stars. It was fun when it lasted but they never returned for another series as originally planned.

Just Right: What Should Happen to USA Cricket

In all reality, Major League Cricket will most likely not go the way of the NFL and NBA, but it might not crash like the XFL or USFL. Smaller leagues have created their own niche and survived, without TV rights and mainstream media.

  • Major League Lacrosse(2001-): 3,844
  • National Women’s Soccer League(2013-): 7,337
  • Major League Rugby(2018-): 4,125

ICC Americas: The CPL & Global T20 Canada Model

With the ICC Americas initiative, West Indies cricket has been supportive of USA cricket.

The Cricket World Cup — A Far Fetched Dream?

Yet, even if MLC succeeds, it does not guarantee Full Membership and ICC funding.

What the Future Holds?

USA And China are the sleeping giants of world cricket.

Predictions

How Can You Get Involved in USA Cricket?

Here are some resources from if you want to get involved in the growth of cricket in America.

  • Player Registration: If you are interested in playing or trying out for the Minor League/Major League/ USA Cricket, fill out this application.
  • What Is Cricket?: ICC’s short minute videos on the different aspects of cricket/rules. Nice 3 minutes high quality videos here to share ahead to your “Future Cricket Fans.”

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Nitesh Mathur

Nitesh Mathur

Ever feel that your childhood dreams of becoming a cricketer were crushed? Then, do not worry–This is the Blog for you! Broken Cricket Dreams-Where Dreams Live