It's been an essential year for cricket in the United States. While the sport still has a small following here, its fanbase is proliferating, and that growth should increase steadily in 2024 and beyond.
In 2023, we saw the first season of Major League Cricket, a tournament that attracted some of the best players. In the following 12 months, cricket fans in the US can enjoy even more of those top stars as the country becomes a joint host of the T20 World Cup.
It's widely known among serious cricket enthusiasts that the United States took part in the first-ever international match. The game was played in 1844 at St George's Park in New York, and it saw a US team take on their neighbor Canada.
This game occurred 33 years before Australia and England's first official test match, but cricket failed to take off in America. Sports such as baseball, basketball, and American football would begin to dominate, and that situation remains today.
Cricket became a fringe sport, mainly played by ex-pats from various countries, and resident Americans needed to show more interest in the sport.
Cricket's profile in the United States started to rise when the West Indies began to play some of their “home” games in Florida. The Central Broward Park Ground at Lauderhill was used for its first international match when New Zealand hosted Sri Lanka in a T20 global in May 2010.
With their proximity to the Eastern coast, the West Indies became regular visitors to Central Broward Park. Their most recent fixture here came in August this year when the Windies took on India in another T20i.
Lauderhill has proved popular as a semi-regular option for fixtures requiring a neutral location, and some players will be familiar with the surface when they arrive for the World Cup in 2023.
The presence of those international teams also helped raise interest in cricket across the United States. Lauderhill stands alone as an international ground, but that will change after the 2024 World Cup. Two additional venues will be in place for the big event.
The advent of T20 cricket from 2003 onwards opened the sport up to minor playing nations worldwide. Teams found they could be more competitive in a shorter format, and there have been some significant T20 international upsets.
The 20-over game is also more fun, and that element led to increased interest. It's now a global game, and the USA is among the nations that have experienced a resurgence in the sport.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) opened up its list of associate members who could play international cricket in the limited overs formats. Subsequently, the United States Men's National Cricket Team played its first T20 international against the United Arab Emirates in 2019.
The ICC also implemented a world league where teams of similar standings play each other. These developing nations must enjoy competitive cricket, as that will fuel belief and a desire to improve. That was the aim of the ICC, and the USMNCT is one of the teams to benefit.
Major League Cricket
After much work in the development stages, 2023 saw the first edition of Major League Cricket in the US. The inaugural competition was based on the T20 format, and it saw six teams take part across 18 days in July.
While the best domestic players were involved, the success of these tournaments depended on their ability to attract big stars from across the cricket world. In that respect, the tournament hit its targets, with international players from the West Indies, England, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa participating.
The top names to compete in 2023 were Sunil Narine, Faf Du Plessis, Jason Roy, Aaron Finch, Kieron Pollard, and Nicholas Pooran. Each player boasts vast international experience, providing extra interest for cricket fans worldwide.
Major League Cricket was broadcast live across the globe, and viewing figures were steady, if not spectacular. Attendances inside the stadiums were a little disappointing, with an average of 3,684 fans watching each of the 19 games.
It was a slow start, but MLC has a platform to build through 2024.
The Biggest Honor
In 2024, The United States will share hosting duties with the West Indies for the latest edition of the T20 World Cup. Global limited-overs competition began in 1975, but this is the first time any tournament will feature games in the USA.
As joint hosts, the United States men's cricket team has pre-qualified for the event, featuring 20 teams from around the cricketing world. The tournament will begin on June 4, with the final on June 30.
Through 2023, venues have been confirmed for the event, and the stadiums involved will be spread across the country. Three US grounds are preparing for hosting duties, and these are:
- The Grand Prairie Stadium in Grand Prairie, Dallas.
- Central Broward Park in Lauderhill, Florida.
- Eisenhower Park Stadium in East Meadow, Long Island
Dates and fixtures are yet to be determined, but those facilities will play an active part in the 2024 tournament. It's a big deal for cricket in the United States and one that the governing body should be using as a springboard for a positive future.
What Does the Future Hold?
The United States cricket team's ultimate aim is to compete with the established nations. Their performance at the 2024 World Cup will allow the side to see how much work needs to be done.
The advent of Major League Cricket was a bonus for the game in the US, but the tournament's first edition wasn't well attended. Organizers must look at the crowd and viewing figures and assess how these can be improved.
In short, while there is growing interest in cricket across the United States, the sport is at a crossroads. One concern is the suggestion that hosting would be moved away from the US due to the financial position of the governing body, USA Cricket.
Those stories have been dismissed, and the United States is on course to fulfill those hosting duties. Those stunning grounds in top tourist locations will attract many overseas visitors, but will a global tournament inspire the local population to take up the game?
Cricket will never be able to compete with the big four sports in the United States. Football, basketball, hockey, and basketball will always take precedence, and no other events can challenge their popularity.
There is a chance that Major League Cricket could rival Major League Soccer in the future and that fans will slowly build a fanbase for the Seattle Orcas, the Texas Super Kings, and other MLC sides.
Hopefully, for the sake of the sport in the US and for cricket fans worldwide, the 2024 World Cup will inspire future followers and players.