T20 World Cup not a ‘game-changer’ for cricket in USA, but it is a start

Fans of USA – T20 World Cup not a 'game-changer' for cricket in USA, but it is a start
US fans show their support during their team's T20 World Cup match against India - Getty Images/Pankaj Nangia

“What do we do now?” At the end of The Candidate, after Robert Redford’s character has been elected to the US Senate, he turns to his campaign strategist and asks that question.

It is one that United States cricket faces. The 34,000-seat stadium at Eisenhower Park, which hosted India’s match against Pakistan among others, has already been dismantled. As a senior administrator at a Test nation says of the T20 World Cup in America: “The general consensus is that it was a good thing to do but people are not sure what, if anything, happens next.”

For US cricket, this T20 World Cup is better viewed as the start of a journey, rather than the destination. Hosting 16 games in the tournament is “the first step in a long-term strategy to establish cricket”, says Fara Gorsi, the International Cricket Council’s development manager for the region. She believes that the tournament “has given us an outstanding foundation from which to start engaging non-cricket fans”. One small measure is six articles on cricket in the New York Times in the past three weeks; the most recent is titled ‘Unlikely World Cup Victories Raise Cricket’s Profile in US.’

However, Jon Allsop, who writes about media for the Columbia Journalism Review, says: “I’m not sure the World Cup has been a game-changer.” The lack of any matches on free-to-air channels has hindered the sport’s attempt to reach new fans.

Yet the four million subscribers to Willow TV, the specialist cricket channel, highlight the existing interest in the game. Broadcasting rights for ICC events in the US are thought to be the fourth most lucrative in the world, behind only South Asia, England and Australia. “The US was a surprisingly big media market for cricket even before the World Cup,” Allsop notes. “If the strategy is to grow interest in cricket incrementally in the US, it will surely have helped.”

The US win over Pakistan ensured one legacy of this T20 World Cup. Reaching the Super Eight stage sealed the US’s automatic qualification for the next T20 World Cup, in February 2026. An exciting coterie of players, who defeated Bangladesh in a series before the World Cup, will enjoy the chance for an encore on the world stage.

Saurabh Netravalkar (L) – T20 World Cup not a 'game-changer' for cricket in USA, but it is a start
Saurabh Netravalkar (left) and Harmeet Singh celebrate the USA's victory over Pakistan - AP/Tony Gutierrez

The US will also become an ever-more attractive option for players from Full Member nations considering emigrating, knowing that they could qualify to represent a new nation after three years of residency. In T20, there is little reason why the US cannot regularly beat sides ranked in the top 10 and even reach the top 10 themselves.

An administrator in a Test nation acknowledges that if the game is grown in the US “the lack of permanent facilities and good pitches is a big issue”. The ICC’s main focus at grassroots level in the US is criiio, a pop-up, informal version of the game. During the World Cup, criiio festivals were organised in Florida, Dallas, and New York, the three host venues. From August, the ICC is partnering with 127 schools, spread between the same three venues, to introduce this new iteration.

Yet far more attention must be paid to supporting the existing cricket infrastructure: local club players continue to bemoan the abject grassroots facilities. Amit Bhatia from The Wanderers New York Cricket Club laments that “we have no proper grounds with turf pitches” in the city.

While US cricket governance has long veered between crises, the country now has an established T20 league. Major League Cricket launched last year and enjoyed a solid debut season. The task of encouraging sports fans in the US to go to live cricket will now largely fall to MLC.

In 2026, it intends to expand from its current six sides to eight; it then hopes to reach 10 sides by the end of the decade. The World Cup will “only help our conversations” with sponsors, says Justin Geale, the tournament director of MLC. “This allows us to go to towns and cities and tell them, ‘you can see the people coming’.”

Atlanta, Florida and Toronto could all soon have MLC sides. Yet the more immediate aim is to ensure that all six existing teams develop venues of their own. All matches in this season’s Major League, just like last year, will be staged either in Grand Prairie, Texas or Morrisville, North Carolina. “It’s very hard to build a Seattle and a San Francisco fan base when you’re playing that match in Dallas,” Geale admits.

MLC expects to get another fillip in 2028. At the Los Angeles Olympics, cricket will return to the Games for the first time since 1900. While the tournament will feature only five or six countries, the Games offer the best hope for a transformation of US cricket.

With Olympic status, the US and other cricket boards will gain access to new government funding and support. Most importantly, Olympic status could lead to cricket being welcomed into the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which runs college sports in the US.

“Most Americans aren’t following the success of the team,” says Stefan Szymanski, a leading sports economist and co-author of Soccernomics. “If cricket were to take off as a varsity sport, which is possible given it is now an Olympic sport, the strength of the collegiate system could give a real boost.”

Joining the NCAA would be particularly transformative for women’s cricket, which currently lags far below the men’s game. The civil rights law Title IX mandates that female and male student-athletes receive equal treatment, with universities funding male and female sports equally. The ICC aims to have women’s ‘softball’ cricket played in 40 colleges in the coming years to build its push to join the NCAA.

If cricket is played regularly at universities, with different colleges offering scholarships as they do in other sports, this would provide a regular pipeline of homegrown players to the national side. Cricket would still not be a front-rank US sport. But the size and sporting culture of the country is such that the US could still have a major impact on cricket in the years ahead.