USA cricket September 1, 2012

Franchise process for US pro league to start this month

The promoters of the first professional US Twenty20 league will begin the tender process for the six inaugural franchises later this month. The league - staged by Cricket Holdings America, a joint venture headed by the USA Cricket Association and New Zealand Cricket - is likely to be held in June and July 2013 with reports suggesting the matches will be played in New York and San Francisco.

CHA has also declared ambitions for the USA to apply and secure hosting rights for future ICC events, including the ICC World Twenty20 within the next 10 years. In addition to taking bids for franchises starting this month, CHA also plans to host exhibition matches in the USA next year between international players and local talent.

"To supplement the UST20 League and the international program there will be a series of All-Star matches each year that will allow international superstars to play alongside and against emerging local talent and the best the United States can offer," CHA's website said.

CHA hopes for the league to grow to as many as 10 franchises by 2016. The first season, reports suggest, will be played primarily in New York and San Francisco. New York has thriving West Indian and South Asian immigrant populations, particularly in Brooklyn and Queens, while the San Francisco Bay Area includes Silicon Valley, where thousands of South Asians have immigrated over the years for work in the software and technology industries.

If the league does launch franchises in New York and San Francisco, it would be highly probable that matches in those cities would be played on artificial pitches. While both cities are home to multiple professional sports teams with outdoor stadiums that hold in excess of 40,000 seats, neither city has an international standard natural turf wicket facility exclusively for cricket and it is doubtful that one would be built to be ready in time for next summer. Currently, the only facility in the USA that is approved by the ICC for use in Twenty20 and ODI matches is the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, Florida.

A Twenty20 league launched in the summer months would primarily be competing for fan and media interest inside the USA with mid-season Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer. The NHL and NBA typically finish their playoffs by the middle of June while the NFL, currently the most popular professional league in the USA, starts its regular season every September.

In order to avoid clashing with the international cricket calendar, the USA Twenty20 league would most likely get underway after the conclusion of the ICC Champions Trophy, which runs from June 6-23 in England. The 2013 Ashes Series follows, which means that top international stars from Australia and England would be unavailable but players from other countries might be tempted by the prospect of coming to play in America.

Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey