DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas — Think you got what it takes to go pro in ... pickleball? If so, you're in luck.
On Tuesday, Major League Pickleball (MLP) officially launched in Dripping Springs, Texas. The new elite league held a ceremony at Dreamland Tuesday morning, featuring MLP executives, professional players and VIP guests.
In the league, the world's best 32 professional players (16 women and 16 men) will compete in a nationally broadcast competition over four days at Dreamland, Nov. 5-8. Eight teams will compete for the Pritchard Cup, named after the founder of the sport, Joel Pritchard.
Before season one of the event, MLP will stage an inaugural draft in Dallas on Oct. 1. The eight MLP team owner groups will select four players to compete in the inaugural MLP event in November.
Pickleball has been dubbed “the fastest-growing sport in America” by The Economist. More than 4 million people played pickleball in 2021, and the sport saw a 21% increase in pickleball participants from 2019 to 2020.
“Major League Pickleball is going to be excellent for our sport,” said Irina Tereschenko, professional pickleball player. “MLP is bringing a new format, a team event that will bring people together, and a Draft that I expect to be epic. I’m also very pleased to see the team owners are all pickleball fans, and avid players who want to help grow the sport. Overall, I think this is going to be huge; I know I can’t wait for season one to start, and that’s how a lot of my fellow pros are feeling.”
The first competition will feature eight teams competing in women's and men's singles and doubles, as well as mixed doubles, to crown the first championship team. All players in each team receive equal prize money, depending on where their team finishes. A total prize fund of $150,000 is on the table. The prize pool also includes an equity stake in MLP for season one players.
“The launch of Major League Pickleball is a proud moment for everyone in the pickleball community,” added Steve Kuhn, creator of MLP. “I fell in love with pickleball six years ago and ever since I started playing, I’ve dreamt of building an elite-level pickleball league that gives professional players the opportunity to showcase their talents to as large an audience as we can build, and increased financial rewards for competing at that level. Equally important for me, MLP is going to bring new people into our sport. Pickleball inspires joy, passion and a true love of the game among everyone who picks up a paddle, and MLP is going to showcase the sport to new audiences, helping build a long, healthy and sustainable future for our sport."
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