With the T20 Men’s Cricket World Cup due to start tomorrow (June 1), co-hosted by the West Indies and the US, the build-up to the tournament has been relatively quiet. The West Indies is a cricket-loving nation, having won the men’s T20 World Cup twice before, but cricket is yet to make a major breakthrough in the US.

The US is one of the richest sporting countries in the world, with major leagues such as the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), and Major League Baseball (MLB), making up the majority of the sports market capital in the country.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) is hoping that a showpiece event, which is one of the biggest sporting attractions in the world, will kickstart cricket in the US.

Previously, the T20 World Cup has been hosted by traditional cricket-loving nations like India, Australia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies, and England.

The benefit of hosting a T20 World Cup in these countries is that they already have the infrastructure and resources to host a cricket tournament. The big issue in staging it in the US is the lack of infrastructure and resources that are necessary when hosting a major cricket event.

Nassau County Stadium is a purpose-built stadium for this year’s competition, and construction began back in January. The venue is unique, with views of Manhattan skyline from its east and west stands and the outfield is using world-class Tahoma 31 Bermuda grass nurtured in Florida for its play surface.

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The playing surface was transported over 1,000 miles to New York. According to Forbes, the stadium cost around $30 million to build.

The venues in the US are using ‘drop-in pitches’ which were the responsibility of Adelaide Oval’s head groundsman, Damian Hough. The 34,000-seater Nassau County Stadium will be the venue that hosts one of the biggest matches in world Cricket, India vs Pakistan.

The two countries do not play each other in bilateral cricket for political reasons, which makes the contest even more anticipated, and the match is already a sell-out ahead of the June 9 encounter. With many expats from the subcontinent living in the US, this allows huge potential for the tournament’s attendance.

The 34,000-seater stadium at Eisenhower Park is due to be dismantled after the tournament, but the cricket field will remain. The aim is for this to provide a ‘world-class’ foundation for local teams and potentially a future professional team.

The huge amount of investment that has been made for this year’s T20 World Cup demonstrates the giant risk that the ICC is taking. However, the tournament is up against huge competition.

The NBA finals are due to get underway on June 6, ice hockey’s NHL Stanley Cup is being played at the same time, and the US Open golf begins a week later. The T20 World Cup will struggle to find a place in this schedule.

The main goal for the tournament is to put cricket on the sporting landscape in the US, yet it is unlikely to have any chance of competing against the major sports leagues in America.

In 2023, the US held the inaugural Major League Cricket (MLC) season which has, to an extent, provided a platform for international cricket. The first edition of MLC was a success, with the help of investment from Indian Premier League (IPL) owners which not only provided some of the top cricketers around the world but also gave American fans a gateway to cricket with something they love and are familiar with – a sports league format.

With the hype around a T20 World Cup usually big, this year’s tournament appears to be different.

According to the ICC, it has plans to have a series of introductory events and activities leading up to the tournament, and the governing body kicked off the tournament celebrations with its ‘Out of this World’ campaign which saw giant cricket balls pop up in places like Bridgetown, Barbados, and New York’s Time Square to mark the 100-day countdown to the start of the tournament. Despite these efforts, there is no buzz in the US for the tournament.

During the unveiling of the Nassau County Stadium, there was not a single Indian cricketer among the multiple sports stars who were there for the first look at the stadium. Understandably, the IPL is ongoing, but this was not the best advertisement for the tournament.

Disney, which holds the media rights in India for international cricket, and has a deal agreed covering the 2024-2027 period, is reportedly not happy with the lack of promotion of this year’s T20 World Cup.

Cricket in India is hugely popular, therefore the lack of buzz, grouped together with the time zone difference, which will be the case for the tournament, is a major worry for the broadcaster.

It will be aware of the high viewership it will receive for the games that India is featuring, however beyond this, it is not expected to be particularly popular.  

The USA Cricket Board is on the brink of suspension as it terminated the ICC proposed Noor Murad from the CEO position. The suspension has been delayed until after the tournament.

Although this may not directly affect the event, it’s not a good look for USA cricket and is another factor as to why the country hosting a major tournament may not reap its benefits.

Unlike cricket, soccer has made a name for itself in the States, with MLS being a success and the women’s US soccer team experiencing huge success in recent years.

Cricket is going to find it much more difficult to find a place in the US sports market, with the sport having fewer professional nations across the world, whereas soccer is played on a much more global scale with a greater appeal worldwide.

The bigger picture looks beyond the T20 World Cup, with a focus on cricket making a breakthrough in the US. With sports leagues across the US dominating the country’s sporting landscape, if the tournament exceeds expectations in the US, this could prove pivotal for MLC.

However, the ICC has missed an opportunity, the permanent structures in Florida and Dallas, which have had improvements, but most of these are just temporary. The US has the potential to be one of the most rewarding markets for cricket but the ICC must look beyond the tournament.

T20 franchise cricket is a major powerhouse in the world game, therefore the T20 World Cup matches in the US are a great opportunity to launch cricket into the market.

With the tournament expanding from 16 to 20 teams, this year’s edition provides the opportunity for countries like the US, Canada, and Nepal to put themselves alongside the world’s best. From that perspective, this coincides with cricket being included in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

With cricket’s last Olympic appearance in 1900, a new era for the sport in the US and internationally is about to begin. The ICC is taking a huge gamble, but it is not the wrong decision given the direction in which franchise cricket is heading.