The State of the Union’s Cricket
As talk of World Cups and new professional leagues slowly puts cricket on the radar of sports fans in this country, it's a good time to ask: just where does cricket in the US fit into the overall jigsaw puzzle of international cricket? In some ways, cricket in this country is at its most optimistic peak. There is more press -- both domestic and international -- being generated about American cricket than there's been in probably a hundred years, but there are still some jagged edges about the game here that will need to be smoothed out before the US can consider itself a top-flight player on the world stage.
Here's where things stand right now…
USA Cricket Men's One Day International Team
With only ten teams making the upcoming 50-overs 2023 World Cup this fall in India, there's a whole lot of hoops to jump through for a lower-tiered team like the US to make it to the Big Dance. That said, a recent first-place finish at a qualifier in Namibia puts the Red, White, and Blue one step closer -- and just one step away -- from punching their ticket to India. It's a big step, though. The US will go to Zimbabwe this June for a final qualifier where ten teams will compete for the final two spots in the World Cup. This qualifier won't be quite as easy as the recently completed one. Experienced and highly-ranked squads like the West Indies and Sri Lanka stand in their way and look to be the two nations that will move on. Games, though, aren't won on paper and once teams take the field, anything can happen. Even so, if the 17th-ranked US make the World Cup in India, it would be one of the top cricket stories of the year.
USA Cricket Men's T20 Team
The US doesn't have to worry about having to qualify for the T20 World Cup in 2024. It's not that they're among the world's elite at the short version of the game; the US qualifies because the event will be co-hosted by the US and the West Indies and host nations automatically get to play. This should bring a lot of attention to the game in this country. And, hopefully, the US will represent itself well. The field for the event is 20 teams. While the US have had moderate success against midlevel teams, they've only played one T20 series against a full-member nation -- splitting a pair of T20s against Ireland in December 2021. The team is currently ranked number 25 in the world.
USA Cricket Women's Team
The US Women's team won an early qualifier for the 2023 Women's T20 World Cup, but came up short in a final qualifier last fall in an attempt to make it into the World Cup's final ten-team field. Currently ranked number 25 in the world, they'll now set their sites on a berth in the 2024 T20 World Cup which will be held in Bangladesh next fall. You can find some of the country's top women cricketers -- including team captain Sindhu Sriharsha and international star Tara Norris -- playing in the FairBreak T20 Invitational taking place in Hong Kong and currently being shown on the Willow cable channel and the Willow app. A second FairBreak T20 Invitational is scheduled to be held this September in the US.
Major League Cricket
The US will attempt to make its mark in the getting-very-crowded field of franchise T20 leagues taking place around the world when Major League Cricket launches this July. The six-team league features teams representing major US cities -- New York, Washington, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle -- although matches in the inaugural season will take place in Texas (and possibly North Carolina) as cricket-specific venues are still being developed around the country. The league should do a lot to bolster the US's cricketing reputation around the world as most expect some of the top international stars to spend a bit of their summer in the States.
Minor League Cricket
Returning for its third season, Minor League Cricket will again continue to develop local and homegrown talent. Twenty-six teams -- from San Diego to Philadelphia and from Chicago to Orlando -- will take the field when the league starts up in August after the completion of the Major League Cricket Season. Matches from the previous two seasons were streamed live over YouTube, so it's a great -- and inexpensive -- way to watch the future of American cricket well into September!
If you're just getting into cricket in this country, congrats -- and get ready to fasten your seat belt. The next 12 to 18 months are going to be a wild ride for the game here. But if things go as planned, the US should be leveling-up pretty significantly in the international cricket world.
© CricAmerica.com/Steve Steinberg 2023