USA Cricket is planning to start its own T20 professional domestic competition by 2021. It could also possibly be sooner after the governing body announced a request for proposals (RFP) on Monday.
"This is an exciting time for cricket in the United States with the formation of our new Board of Directors, USA Cricket's pending recognition as an ICC approved National Federation and the performance of our athletes on the field of play," USA Cricket chairman Paraag Marathe said. "This RFP continues on the positive momentum as we seek to build a successful and sustainable league domestically.
"Newly released global research shows there are more than 20 million cricket fans in the United States. A well-run T20 professional league is the platform needed to engage existing fans and grow new ones to support the bullish vision this Board has for cricket in the US."
If USA Cricket is able to get a league off the ground, it could serve as a core revenue driver to fund all other operations of the governing body and reduce the reliance on the ICC funding support. One of the other key goals listed in the RFP is setting up a league that can help cricket "establish itself as a mainstream sport in the United States".
Another core objective mentioned is to "support the sustainable development of cricketing infrastructure across the United States". Currently, the only ICC certified T20I/ODI stadium facility is the Central Broward Regional Park (CBRP) in Lauderhill, Florida.
The Florida facility has hosted eight T20Is so far, beginning with a two-match series between Sri Lanka and New Zealand in 2010. The series that drew the best attendance at the facility was a pair of T20Is between India and West Indies in August 2016, which included a first-day sellout of 15,000 people. But most other matches not involving India have struggled to draw in crowds.
In terms of the domestic T20 circuit, the CBRP has hosted the Caribbean Premier League fixtures since 2016. Six matches were held at the facility in 2016, including a pair of sold-out weekend double-headers when capacity was set at 10,000 people. But attendance has continued to fall significantly each year culminating in an estimated 700 people attending a mid-week fixture between Jamaica Tallawahs and Barbados Tridents this past season, casting doubt on the viability of an expatriate-dominated USA fan base to support a full-fledged domestic franchise league.
USA Cricket's attempt to start their own pro T20 league follows several failed attempts at domestic professional leagues during the USA Cricket Association (USACA) era. The first was Pro Cricket, an eight-team T20 professional league started by New Jersey businessman Kal Patel that signed several international players as its marquee players including Robin Singh, Colin Miller, Ricardo Powell, Marlon Samuels, Franklyn Rose and Mervyn Dillon. It never received official sanctioning from USACA and lasted just one season in 2004 before it folded.
USACA signed a licensing deal in December 2010 with New Zealand Cricket, Podar Enterprises and Neil Maxwell's Insite Organisation for a franchise T20 league that was scheduled for a 2012 launch. As part of the deal, USACA was due to receive up to $9 million in advance payments on anticipated future revenue from the league but a failure to secure investors resulted in a breakdown in the licensing partnership, and the league was never formed.
The most recent attempt at a T20 professional league was announced by USACA in September 2016 when they claimed that they had reached a 20-year, $70 million licensing deal with Global Sports Ventures (GSV) to start a new T20 league. USACA were under the ICC suspension at that point, prior to eventually being expelled in June 2017 and as such, the ICC guidelines stated that USACA had no sanctioning authority for such a league.
Sources have told ESPNcricinfo that no money was ever exchanged between Global Sports Ventures and USACA. The head of GSV, Pennsylvania-based businessman Jay Pandya, eventually bought the St Lucia franchise in the Caribbean Premier League.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna