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2nd Most Popular Global Sporting Event Currently in U.S., Under Radar of Mainstream Fans

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2nd Most Popular Global Sporting Event Currently in U.S., Under Radar of Mainstream Fans

The International Cricket Council Men’s T20 World Cup is the second most popular global sporting event, behind only the FIFA World Cup. 

“From a viewership [perspective, number of] eyeballs [and] digital minutes [consumed, it outpaces] all [others],” Brett Jones (CEO, T20 World Cup USA Inc.) said. 

And it is taking place, right now, across the United States (and West Indies). Group stage matches began on June 1.

But the ICC’s exclusive U.S. broadcast rights deal with the cricket-centric streaming service Willow TV has the biennial tournament out of most general market American sports fans’ sight and mind.

Exceptions exist in metropolitan Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, and on Long Island. More than 220,000 people bought tickets to attend matches in those markets.

T20 World Cup USA Inc. is hopeful that the World Cup increases awareness of the bat and ball sport within those communities and that the tournament’s momentum will help to kickstart a push towards LA28 (when cricket returns to the Olympics for the first time since ‘90) and beyond.

“One of our major drivers to run an efficient, well delivered, event is that [doing so] will allow the foundational bodies of USA Cricket and Major League Cricket to power forward with [their] community and development programs and unite cricketing infrastructure [in the country], which has been somewhat disparate to date,” Jones said.

T20 World Cup USA Inc. is the local non-profit organizing committee responsible for delivering the ICC tournament matches. Any profits it generates from the sale of tickets and hospitality will go towards growing the game here.


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It’s hard to comprehend just how popular the T20 World Cup is on a global scale. Non-India matches will draw ~200 million viewers worldwide!

For context, last year’s Super Bowl posted a similar number across all networks.

The event dominates social channels too. 

“We [recently] did a collaboration with the NBA where we had [the Larry O’Brien Championship] Trophy out next to our [Trophy] and the Indian [team star was] talking about his favorite basketball moments,” Jones said. “It did better than literally any [other] piece of content [the NBA has] produced throughout the playoffs.”

Perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Virat Kohli has 270mm IG followers. No NBA player has more than 160mm (LeBron James).

But here in the U.S., the T20 World Cup continues to fly under the radar.

That is despite cricket’s long and storied history in the country. 

America’s international rivalry with Canada is considered “the oldest in sport,” Jones said.

That’s not to say there isn’t interest.

Ticket sales for group stage matches in Texas, Florida, and New York have outpaced those in the Caribbean, and the U.S. is the event’s fourth largest television market.

“It’s just not the traditional sports consumer [watching],” Jones said.

“The demographics of the 52 million Americans who are understood to be cricket fans tend to skew older,” Stuart Goldfarb (partner, Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard LLP and lead legal counsel, T20 World Cup USA, Inc.) added.

Cricket’s inability to breakthrough amongst general market sports fans –and perhaps as importantly, the sports media– in America is likely tied to where its most-compelling matches air. It’s tough to crack the public consciousness behind a high paywall (see: boxing).

It’s worth noting that the ICC controls the Men’s T20 World Cup broadcast rights on a global basis (not the local organizing committee).

There has also been a dearth of organized youth programs to help attract young fans to the game.

The hope is that hosting the matches will attract curious interest in the local markets, and ultimately lead to some newfound fandom. The World Cup is the highest profile –and most meaningful– cricket competition ever played on U.S. soil. 

“Cricket West Indies has played some [exhibition] games against India in Florida and USA Cricket has played its own international matches, but nothing to the level that’s being played [this week],” Jones said.

That is notable for U.S. sports fans who want to watch the best compete.

Sunday’s match between India and Pakistan in Nassau County is the group stage’s most anticipated matchup. More than 30,000 fans are expected to attend.

“We’ll be very close, if not sold out, by the time we get to June 9th,” Jones said.

The cheapest pair of general admission seats available for the match were selling for upwards of $700 on the secondary market, pre-fees, at time of print. The host committee still has some premium inventory available.  

But not every match will price out the average Joe.

“We’ve had standing room tickets available in Dallas for $50 or $60 a head,” Jones said.

The majority of the seats sold to date have been to American residents. 

“This is a U.S. story,” Jones said. “These are first, second, [and] third generation citizens bringing their families to watch a game.” 

That reality bodes well for the future of Major League Cricket.

“There’s a positive story to be written over the next [few decades as young Americans go from learning about the sport to becoming fans of it],” Jones said. “Then the challenge, like all sports, [will be] to take those fan facing moments and turn them into 12 month/year participation and community level activities that continue to feed the fan base at the professional level.”

It’s likely going to take a lot of hard work and hand-to-hand combat from advocates on the ground in the U.S. to get kids to choose cricket.

“The event will be the easy part,” Goldfarb said. “The more difficult piece will be how to convince [young] Americans to pick up cricket bats and actually play the sport [when there is so much competition for their time].”

No one is expecting cricket to overtake baseball (or any other big four sport for that matter). But as America’s demographics change, and it gains some infrastructure at a youth level and awareness via the domestic pro league, the sport should become increasingly prevalent in cities across the country.

That includes on Long Island. When the ICC departs, it will leave several upgrades facilities for the local cricket community (think: fully irrigated grass field).

“It'll be something the county will [continue to] benefit from [for] a long time to come,” Jones said.

While much work remains to grow the game’s popularity in the U.S., insiders see the ongoing T20 World Cup as the beginning of cricket’s next era stateside.

“If we look 30 years out, this [tournament] will very likely be noted as one of the key first steps,” Jones said. “This is the ’94 World Cup [for our sport and league].”

That comparison sounds overly optimistic. Kids across the U.S. were playing soccer in the early ‘90s. 

But the overarching premise is valid. Increased awareness of and infrastructure for the game, both expected results of this World Cup, should help to cultivate the first/next generation of American cricket fans.

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