MLC set to launch with draft on March 9 at NASA's Johnson Space Center
Corey Anderson, Sami Aslam, Dane Piedt, Liam Plunkett and Unmukt Chand could feature in the tournament as local players
With the inaugural season slated to begin this July, the USA's Major League Cricket franchise T20 tournament is all systems go, launching with a player draft on March 9 at the historic NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
MLC officials are believed to be in the process of organising a player scouting combine that will take place in Houston from March 1-8 in the lead-up to the draft. The eight-day combine will include trial matches comprising the top America-based performers over the last year from the MLC's feeder competition, the Minor League Cricket. The combine will provide a final opportunity for players to get on franchise radars leading into the draft.
Among those expected to be featured players at the combine and in the MLC draft are ones who have been recruited by organisers to relocate to the USA and participate as local players, partially with an eye to become eligible to play for USA after serving a three-year residency ICC qualification period. Their domestic residency status will allow rosters to be beefed up without resorting to what would be overseas players.
Those players include former New Zealand allrounder Corey Anderson (now based in Dallas), former Pakistan batter Sami Aslam (San Francisco), former South Africa spinner Dane Piedt (North Carolina), former England fast bowler Liam Plunkett (Philadelphia), and former India U-19 World Cup winning captain Unmukt Chand (San Francisco). Anderson was one of the first MLC signees in 2020 and is expected to become eligible for USA as early as March.
Similar to the drafts that have been conducted for the Minor League Cricket, foreign players are not expected to be included in the draft. Sources say that franchises will be negotiating directly with players to fill the overseas slots on their rosters. The exact split between overseas and domestic players slots has yet to be finalised.
The six-team franchise event will use a newly renovated facility in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie, Texas as its anchor venue for the inaugural season. The 7200 permanent seat facility, formerly known as the Airhogs Stadium, is expected to be completed by the end of spring. The 18-day tournament will run from July 13-30 in a single round-robin format before a four-match playoff phase.
The six MLC franchises already have links to the IPL as well as backing from prominent members of the South Asian diaspora in the USA. The Knight Riders Group was one of the earliest investors in the MLC and will be in charge of the Los Angeles franchise, while Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is one of the lead investors in the Seattle-based franchise.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna