The American sports market is notoriously difficult to break through, with traditional US sports like baseball and basketball stubbornly holding sway.
Football for example (or soccer as it is better known in the US), has had a big go, but it is still generally not as accepted in the country as it is in the majority of the rest of the world.
Major League Soccer has tried all sorts of marketing gimmicks to boost the popularity of the sport, like bringing in global superstars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Beckham and most recently the greatest of them all (depending on who you speak to!), Lionel Messi into the league, but soccer remains some distance behind the Big 4 of MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL.
To be fair, football has experienced significant growth in the US in the last three decades, but the market share is still fairly small, with the sport still residing in the shadows of the top guns.
Now cricket is the latest sport to attempt a crack at the US.
History tells us that cricket debuted in the United States as far back as the early 18th century, but it never truly took off through subsequent centuries, eventually eclipsed by baseball as the premier bat and ball game in the country.
However, the sport has started to make new moves in recent times. The American men's and women's cricket teams have begun to get more recognition in the global game, albeit at a much lower level compared to powerhouses like India and England, while the US and West Indies will cohost the T20 World Cup in 2024.
The hope is that the World Cup will have a similar effect on cricket in America as the soccer World Cup had in 1994 when it was staged in the US.
And what better way to advertise cricket to the 21st century American than through the Crash, Bang, Wallop of T20 cricket!
That's exactly what Major League Cricket is looking to do.
Major League Cricket is part of a global expansion of T20 leagues around the world, with Pakistan, Bangladesh, England, Australia, West Indies and New Zealand amongst top Test playing nations that also have thriving leagues.
Many of these tournaments have taken inspiration from the Indian Premier League, which remains the most lucrative competition in the shortest format of the game.
Indeed, the IPL has had a direct influence on other T20 leagues, with Indian franchises owning clubs in other leagues like SA T20 (South Africa) and International League T20 (UAE).
There have been several attempts at T20 leagues in the US, like Pro Cricket and the United States Premier League, but none had previously captured the attention of the American audience. The general feeling is that Major League Cricket is the real deal.
MLC had been in the pipeline for a few years, but was hampered by several road blocks, including the COVID 19 pandemic and administrative issues, but it finally got the go ahead to launch in 2023.
And with the strong involvement of the immensely successful IPL, there is plenty of optimism that this could be the catalyst for an exponential growth of the sport in the USA.
In the inaugural edition in 2023, four of the six participating teams are either owned or backed by IPL franchises.
MI New York is owned by the Mumbai Indians, Texas Super Kings by the Chennai Super Kings while the Los Angeles Knight Riders are owned by the Kolkata Knight Riders. The fourth team with an IPL connection is the Scarlet Orcas, supported by the co-owners of the Delhi Capitals.
The other two teams from the first edition are the San Francisco Unicorns and Washington Freedom.
The tournament has also managed to attract some of the finest T20 exponents in the world, with all six teams in the first edition boasting superstar line-ups.
Kieron Pollard, Marcus Stoinis, Francois du Plessis, Andre Russel, Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Aaron Finch and Wanindu Hasaranga are just a few of the array of stars on show.
The MLC will certainly have an eye on the commercial success of bigger American sports like the MLB and the NBA, which have pulled in multi-million dollar sponsorships from a variety of industries, ranging from sportswear manufacturers to sports betting brands.
Betting companies in particular have taken American sports by storm in recent years, with the MLB, NHL, NBA and NFL all having betting partners.
If the MLC grows as quickly as anticipated, it shouldn't take long before it starts benefiting from the betting windfall. We already have NBA betting offers and MLB promotions- perhaps MLC bonuses will soon join the plethora of betting bonuses in the American market !
As with all business ventures, making money is naturally a big ambition for MLC owners, but the competition also aims to grow the sport in the United States, and build up interest ahead of the World Cup in 2024.
By interacting with established international superstars like Kieron Pollard and Faf Du Plessis on and off the pitch, American players will hopefully learn more about the game and develop their skills. Also, more youngsters in the US will take up the sport and improve the pool of players available for future selection for international tournaments.
We have already seen the impact of the IPL on young Indian players, who have become better and more confident by virtue of their association with top players from all over the world.
Not only do they play with and against these players, they also share dressing rooms with the best players on the planet. Many of these youngsters have since been fast tracked to various Indian teams, and have been earmarked for great things in the future.
Cricket is still taking baby steps in the United States, but there's a very good feeling around the MLC.
Success will not be achieved overnight- might even take over a decade- but the MLC represents a new dawn for cricket in the United States.
It may never get to the level of the Big 4, but if the MLC is sustained and improved overtime, cricket could rise to become amongst the best of the rest.