On Friday, October 1, starting at 7 p.m. CT, fans of Major League Pickleball, the just-launched elite league for America’s fastest-growing sport, will turn their attention to Dallas. There, 32 of the best pickleball players in the world, from a pool of more than 50 standout pro pickleball players identified by league officials, will be selected onto the eight newly-formed teams who will compete in Major League Pickleball Season One.
Those teams (with their owners) are:
- ATX Pickleballers (Brené Brown, Steve Alley, Charles Kiley)
- Chimeras (Charles Attal, Charlie Walker)
- Discovery Warriors (Eric Kuo, Mike Meldman)
- The Lions (Marc Lasry, James Blake)
- Pickle Ranchers (Bryan Sheffield, Tim Klitch)
- Team BLQK (Ritchie Tuazon)
- Team Clean (Wes Hurt, Tim Berry, Navdeep Sooch)
- Team Rally (John Raymond, Jim Toth)
In an innovative format aiming for competitive balance among the teams, the league’s creators have developed a snake format that teams will use to select the two women and two men who will carry their brands into battle.
The team awarded the No. 1 women’s pick — which will be the first pick in the draft — will also get the No. 16 women’s pick and the No. 8 and 9 men’s picks.
In a neat example of mathematical synergy, the pick numbers, all together, will total 34 for each of the eight teams. That means the team getting the No. 2 women’s pick will get the No. 15 women’s pick and No. 7 and 10 men’s picks (totally 34), the team getting the No. 3 women’s pick will get the No. 14 women’s pick and No. 6 and 11 men’s picks, and so on.
At the live draft event, the women’s No. 1 pick will be followed by the men’s No. 1 pick, and will then alternate between women and men throughout the 32-player process.
The team matches in MLP, starting with Season 1 — taking place Nov. 5-8 at Dreamland in the Austin metro area — are constructed so that every draft pick will be crucial to a team’s fortune. Each team match consists of a men’s doubles match, a women’s doubles match, and two mixed doubles matches.
If a team match is deadlocked at two matches each, then singles play serves as a tiebreaker — but even in a singles match, all four of a team’s players is involved in the action, rotating in and out according to an order each captain chooses for his or her team before the singles match commences.
“The Draft has been formatted to make sure it will be fair and balanced for all teams, and that’s why we did it this unique way,” Wiley noted. “It was also important for us, since a lot of the
players play with the same partners often, to get partners and matchups that we've never seen before in pro pickleball.”
The jumbling of the deck that the draft will provide will also create some drama as to which picks will go when; Wiley says that Ben Johns is the consensus No. 1 pick on the men’s side, but beyond that on both the men’s and women’s side, cases can be made for the other top draft picks, and the level of pickleball prowess in the draft ensures that every team will be capable of winning team matches.
The owners will have a powerful tool at their disposal to help build their teams — the pickleball ratings system DUPR, quickly becoming the most-widely adopted pickleball ratings program for professional and amateur players worldwide, which also happens to be developed by Wiley.
The ownership groups will also have guidance from people as well as data, as each team will be paired with a senior pro pickleball expert who has insights into the game and considerable knowledge of the current circuit of players.