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Major League Pickleball

A Refresher for the Upcoming 2024 Major League Pickleball Draft

by Erik Tice on

The team sport version of professional pickleball hasn’t held an event in over three months.

But Major League Pickleball is finally back.

Over the past few months, with the PPA/MLP merger in serious jeopardy, it was not certain we would ever play another MLP event.

Major League Pickleball began in 2021 and has been slowly growing since then. In 2021, there was one event. In 2023, MLP had two drafts, two seasons, and added quite a few expansion teams, bringing the number of teams up to 24.

Since there are many new fans of pickleball in the last few months, here is a "Major League Pickleball - 101" course for those who are uninitiated.

It’s Official: The PPA Tour and MLP Announce Much-Anticipated Consolidation
The much discussed and highly-anticipated merger between the Carvana PPA Tour and MLP by Margaritaville is a done deal.

2024 MLP Schedule

MLP will hold 11 events in total during 2024. Eight regular season events, a mid-season tournament, and two rounds of playoffs. Most of the dates are either directly before or directly after a PPA Tour tournament. This helps both organizations cut down on costs and cuts costs for players, as they can just stay in the same town for a longer period of time.

For even more detailed information on the schedule, check out our article covering the schedule release.

Teams and Personnel

Major League Pickleball is all about the TEAM. There are two levels of MLP - Premier and Challenger. Think of the Premier Level like the NBA or MLB and the Challenger Level like the G League or Triple A, respectively. The only difference is that the Challenger Level is NOT a feeder system to Premier - Challenger teams do not have a Premier team counterpart. Each level has 12 teams in it.

Here is the list of teams in each level:

In order to determine which teams are Premier Level and Challenger Level for 2024, there was a Dutch auction held in December of 2023. Each team was able to bid money on how important being in the Premier Level was to them. The top 12 bids were then placed in the Premier Level, with the bottom 12 in Challenger.

Format of Play and Scoring

If you recently started watching pro pickleball and have caught some action from either the PPA or APP Tour, just know that MLP is very different. First, obviously you have the team. Here is how a match breaks down:

  • There are two gender doubles games: men’s doubles and women’s doubles - each worth one point in the match.
    • The order of these matches is determined by a coin toss, with the winning team choosing the order.
  • There are then two mixed doubles games - each worth one point.
    • Again, the order of these matches is determined by a coin toss.
  • If, at the end of these four games, the match is tied at 2-2, the match goes to a Dreambreaker - a game of singles, with one player from either team playing four rallies and then a teammate jumps onto the court to play their rallies until one team wins.
    • The order of players is once again determined by a coin toss.
  • Scoring: Rally Scoring - meaning I do not have to serve in order to earn a point.
  • Games are to 21, you must win by two, and you must win on your serve.

Pictured above: Members of the Orlando Squeeze celebrate their win in 2023

Premier Level Draft Breakdown

The 2024 Premier Level Draft is different than it has been in the past. Usually there is a random order snake draft among the teams (think most fantasy football drafts). However, this year, there is SLOT AUCTION DRAFT in the Premier Level.

The Premier Level Draft takes place on Tuesday, April 2nd.

Slot. Auction. Draft. That sounds confusing. Let’s break it down: This is NOT an auction for specific players. In fantasy football terms, you are not paying $50 for Christian McCaffrey. Instead, you are paying your auction money for the draft slot.

To begin the draft, teams will place bids for the first overall pick for a specific allotted amount of time. Teams can also make multiple bids on that slot. Once the given time has ended, the highest bidder wins that slot.

At that time, the winner of that slot is then on the clock and has three minutes to announce their draft pick. This process continues until all 48 picks have been made and each team has four players.

Pictured above: Ben Johns, Lacy Schneemann, Jessie Irvine, and Erik Lange of the Chicago Slice celebrate winning the 2023 MLP Season 2 Playoffs 

Rumored Logistical Rules of the Auction Draft

  • Each team will receive $500,000 in draft dollars to use - think Monopoly money.
  • Teams are allowed to use up to an additional $500,000 of their own money that they pay to MLP, which gives the teams that are willing to spend the most an auction cap of $1 million.
  • The minimum draft slot bid is $10,000, so hypothetically speaking, a team could bid $970,000 on the first overall draft slot and then get picks 46, 47, and 48 for $10,000 each.

Added Intrigue

Now, not only do owners, GMs, and coaches need to know players, their skill sets, abilities, etc. They also need to be "capologists" - a term I stole from the NFL. Before, you had to be a good drafter at whatever draft slot you were given. Teams are now facing questions like - when is the optimal time and amount to bid to secure my first player? Or my last?

Because this is so new, look for an article from us next week on some suggested slot auction strategies MLP owners and GMs should consider on April 2nd.

Challenger Level Draft

The Challenger Level Draft takes place the day after the Premier Level Draft, Wednesday, April 3rd. This one is much easier to explain than the slot auction draft.

Each Challenger Level team will have six roster spots - three men and three women. This allows for substitutions and lineup decisions, so a coach is even more important at the Challenger Level. Each team will be randomly assigned a draft position and the teams will know at least one week ahead of time what draft position they have been given. It is a normal snake draft, so if you have the first pick, your draft slots are 1, 24, 25, 48, 49, and 72.

For more details on the entire draft, check out this MLP Press Release.

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