Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna
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USA Cricket has announced its first ever home series against a Test nation when the men's national team hosts Ireland for two T20Is and three ODIs in Lauderhill, Florida, in late December. The tour will begin with the first T20I on December 22 followed by another the following day. The ODIs will be played on December 26, 28 and 30, and will be used by Ireland as preparation ahead of their onward journey to the West Indies for three Cricket World Cup Super League ODIs set for early January.
"USA Cricket is absolutely elated to confirm next month's series with Cricket Ireland that we have been working on over the past few months as we continue to try and expand the playing opportunities for our national teams," USA Cricket chief executive Iain Higgins said in a USA Cricket press release. "To be able to bring an ICC Full Member to the United States to play a series of five international matches is an historic and hugely significant step forward for cricket here in America.
"We hope that this series helps to showcase the potential in American cricket with it being the first ever home series of international matches against a Full Member. We will be announcing ticketing details next week and hope that the timing of the series will give people a great opportunity to come along and see high-class international cricket in the flesh next month in Florida."
The timing of the Ireland T20I and ODI series announcement may raise some eyebrows in the US cricket community based on the organisation's recent financial struggles. Flight and accommodation prices traditionally peak over the Christmas holiday period in south Florida, meaning the event will incur significantly higher costs than normal to stage.
The Broward County Stadium in Lauderhill has also never shown an appetite for generating any offsetting gate revenue for USA matches, including USA's inaugural ODI on home soil in September 2019 when a total of 19 spectators were present at the 10,000-capacity venue to watch USA defeat Papua New Guinea even though free admission was offered.
Separately, the announcement of the series comes less than a week before the hosting of the USA Men's 50-over national championships in Texas, an event which is struggling for funding. USA Cricket had issued a press release on October 23 - less than a month before the scheduled start of the domestic championship on November 15 in Houston - to solicit a title sponsor for the event but has yet to announce that they have successfully secured one.
Players from the seven zonal teams - USA Under-19 is the eighth team in the event - were informed at short notice just ahead of squads being announced on November 2 that they will have to pay all of their own travel and accommodation expenses for the event.
ESPNcricinfo understands it sparked a meeting by USA national team players unhappy at the prospect of being stuck with the bill for those expenses, who subsequently met with USA Cricket officials to voice their concerns at the national team's brief training camp in North Carolina ahead of traveling for the start of the ICC Americas Men's T20 World Cup Qualifier in Antigua, which began on November 7. USA players also had their central contract compensation significantly reduced last year, with USA Cricket officials citing the Covid-19 pandemic as a reason for budget cuts.
At their most recent AGM in May, USA Cricket board directors informed members that they had to further slash budgets for domestic and national-team player resources, blaming a lawsuit filed by two board members against the rest of the board over the membership registration and voting process ahead of USA Cricket general elections, which have not taken place since February 2020. The lawsuit was dismissed by a Colorado circuit court judge in July on procedural grounds.
USA have played Ireland four times in the last decade in T20 cricket at the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier events in the UAE and Ireland, the first of which was held in 2010 and the last in 2015, though none of the matches held official T20I status. Ireland won on all four occasions, with the closest margin coming in 2015 at Stormont where they defended a total of 146 to win by 46 runs.
Separately, the two sides also have history in 50-overs cricket - though not in official ODIs - at the ICC Trophy, which is the ICC World Cup Qualifier's predecessor. Ireland won by two wickets chasing down a total of 212 in Kuala Lumpur in 1997 before USA got their revenge at the 2001 event in Toronto, scoring a six-wicket win against a side featuring Ed Joyce after chasing down a target of 210 with 12.1 overs to spare.
This would not be Ireland's first tour to the USA either, though their last visit came in 1973. A side captained by Alec O'Riordan, which also included other illustrious names from Irish cricket history including Roy Torrens and Brendan O'Brien, the father of Kevin and Niall, played underneath the Hollywood sign at Griffith Park in Los Angeles.
It was one of the last international tours hosted at the ground before its cricket facility was repurposed for equestrian sports ahead of the 1984 Summer Olympics, and cricket's new home in Los Angeles was shifted to Woodley Park in Van Nuys.
"We are delighted to confirm the tour of the USA as part of our preparations for the crucial ICC Cricket World Cup Super League series against the West Indies," Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom said. "The chance to play five competitive white-ball fixtures - including three matches under lights - will be important as our players return to the field after a few weeks off.
"With a large population of Irish expats and emigrants in the United States, we hope to see a good turn out of support for our squad and look forward to spending time in one of the USA's best cricket facilities."