Pickleball, recently touted as “the fastest-growing sport in America” by no less a publication than The Economist, is getting its own major league — creating a new platform for the best pros in the world to showcase their talents, and bringing the sport of pickleball to even more of the masses.
Major League Pickleball launched on Tuesday via a live streamed event at Dreamland in Dripping Springs, Texas, in the Austin metro area, where the new league will stage its inaugural season, Nov. 5-8. MLP will feature the world’s-best 32 professional pickleball players (16 women and 16 men), who will compete on four-person teams determined via an Oct. 1 draft in Dallas involving the eight ownership groups who have been assembled to create Major League Pickleball’s season one teams.
MLP was created by Austin business leader Steve Kuhn, Founder of Ideal Immigration, and the leadership group includes president Mellie Price, an educator, entrepreneur and investor who founded Front Gate Tickets and Purposeful Capital and co-founded nationally-recognized entrepreneurial hub Capital Factory; director of operations Brooks Wiley, who leads the pickleball ratings system DUPR, quickly becoming the most-widely adopted pickleball ratings program for professional and amateur players worldwide; and Jenny Klitch, U.S. professional tennis player, attorney, recently the Team USA Captain at the 2021 World Tennis Championships in Croatia, and former world Top-50 tennis player, who will serve MLP’s first-ever Commissioner.
The launch event also included remarks from Dave Fleming, MLP’s Official Brand Ambassador, who is a well-recognized pickleball commentator and senior pro.
“Major League Pickleball is going to be excellent for our sport,” noted leading professional pickleball player Irina Tereschenko. “MLP is bringing a new format, a team event that will bring people together, and a Draft that I expect to be epic. I’m also very pleased to see the team owners are all pickleball fans, and avid players who want to help grow the sport. Overall, I think this is going to be huge; I know I can’t wait for season one to start, and that’s how a lot of my fellow pros are feeling.”
”I am very excited about the launch of Major League Pickleball,” added Ben Johns, the world’s No. 1 men’s professional pickleball player. “MLP is going to change the face of our sport. This innovative team format is going to bring new people into our sport, and what the MLP team is putting into building the brand will help grow awareness of the pros who are already playing the game at such an incredible level.”
MLP will be bolstered with an impressive collection of team owners, including:
- Brené Brown, the internationally recognized researcher, storyteller, author and podcaster;
- James Blake, the former No. 4-ranked professional tennis player and current TV commentator;
- Marc Lasry, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Avenue Capital Group, and co-owner of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks;
- Mike Meldman, American entrepreneur and Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Discovery Land Company, and one of the three founders of Casamigos Tequila;
- Charles Attal and Charlie Walker, C3 Presents co-founder and creators of the Austin City Limits Festival and Lollapalooza;
- Jim Toth, Founding Board Member of Hello Sunshine and a leading Hollywood talent agent.
- Steve Alley MD, a Houston-based Pediatrics Specialist;
- Tim Berry, American entrepreneur, published business author and Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com;
- Wes Hurt, Founder and CEO of CLEAN Cause;
- Charles Kiley, CFO at the Brené Brown Education and Research Group;
- Tim Klitch, Founder & Chief Fun Officer of Austin Pickle Ranch;
- Eric Kuo, Oil Trader at Vitol Group;
- John Raymond, CEO, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of The Energy & Minerals Group;
- Bryan Sheffield, Founder of Parsley Energy and an owner of Austin FC;
- Navdeep Sooch, Chairman of Silicon Labs; Ritchie Tuazon, Fixed Income Portfolio Manager at Capital Group;
Pickleball integrates elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, and according to a January 2021 Sports & Fitness Industry Association report, more than four million people played pickleball in 2021, and the sport saw a 21.39% increase in participants from 2019 to 2020.
For more information about pickleball, MLP, and livestreaming details for its draft and first-ever tournament, visit majorleaguepickleball.net and follow MLP on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest and YouTube.