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Major League Pickleball announces 2024 Competition Structure

by Erik Tice on

Major League Pickleball released the Competition Structure and Rules Guide ahead of this week's season-opening event in Atlanta.

Here are some of the biggest highlights and changes for 2024:

Rally Scoring to 25 and no freeze - still must win by 2

In 2023, MLP toyed with different scoring structures for matches and the rules got pretty complicated. This simplified version will definitely help the viewing audience better understand what the score is. 

In 2024, a point is scored in every rally, regardless of who serves. Games are played to 25, but you also must win by two. 

DreamBreakers will still only be played to 21.

Note: The United Pickleball Association (UPA) noted that the competition committee is still reviewing the best scoring format moving forward as it relates to sports betting and viewership, so these scoring rules may be tweaked in the future.

A total of 23 matches over five events for each team

Each team will play a total of five regular season events - in addition to the mid-season tournament and the MLP Playoffs (for those that qualify). In order to make the competition format fair, each team will play exactly 23 matches during their five regular season events.

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New points structure for year-end standings

A new points structure – similar to the NHL – is in place for 2024.

  • 3 Points for a win in regulation (either win the match 3-1 or 4-0)
  • 2 Points for a win in a DreamBreaker
  • 1 Point for a loss in a DreamBreaker
  • 0 Points for a loss in regulation

New waiver wire dates and format

There will be four waiver wire periods throughout the 2024 season:

  • After MLP Washington D.C - 2nd MLP Event - June 16th
    • Waiver Wire on June 19 and June 20
  • After MLP Kansas City - 4th MLP Event - August 5th
    • Waiver Wire on August 7th and 8th
  • After MLP Virginia Beach - 6th MLP Event - September 29th
    • Waiver Wire on October 2nd and 3rd
  • After MLP Miami - 8th MLP Event - October 27th
    • Waiver Wire on October 30th and 21st

This is the first time Premier Level teams are able to work a waiver wire. Premier teams will be allowed to make waiver claims on Wednesday following the above events and Challenger Level teams will be able to make claims the following day.

Waiver claims will work like many other professional sports leagues - the waiver wire order will be determined by the reverse order of points earned up until that date. Waiver orders will be shared with teams the day after events end.

Trade deadline established and trade parameters announced

The Trade Deadline for 2024 is September 29th, the last day of MLP Virginia Beach. There is an injury/pregnancy clause in place for trades to happen after this date, subject to league approval.

Teams can trade three things of value in 2024:

  • Players - This is the obvious one - and trades are allowed to be made from Premier to Premier, Premier to Challenger, and all of those types of combinations
  • Cash - Up to $200,000 in cash compensation is allowed in trade propositions - all of that money goes to the team who made the trade (no trade money goes to the league)
  • Waiver Wire slot - If a team wants to pick up a waiver wire player but they know their waiver slot is high because they have a lot of points, they could send cash to a team who isn’t going to use their waiver slot and move up in the upcoming waiver wire selection
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Injury Process Update

A few big changes with injuries:

Teams now have one available Injury Reserve (IR) slot on their roster

  • Premier Level Teams are NOT allowed to pick up players from the Challenger Level teams that are playing at the same event
  • MLP will make a list of available alternates (not already on MLP teams) one week prior to events starting in case of injury during an event

If an injury occurs between events, the Premier Level teams are able to choose from Challenger Level players who are not playing in the upcoming event, or from the waiver pool. Cash compensation is allowed (up to $200,000) from the Premier Level team to pay to the Challenger Level team for the "loan" of the player. 

Challenger Level teams are never allowed to pick up Premier Level players and must pick alternates from other Challenger Teams not playing or the waiver pool.

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Full Press Release from MLP regarding changes for the 2024 season

The 2024 MLP by Margaritaville season schedule will consist of 11 total weeks of events, hosted across nine different states and Washington, D.C., to bring Major League Pickleball action to more places than ever before and featuring:

  • Eight Regular Season events (May-October)
  • 2024 Mid-Season Tournament (July)
  • 2024 MLP Playoffs (broken up over two different weeks in November)
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MLP’s 22 teams will be split into two levels – Premier (12 teams) and Challenger (10 teams), with all 22 teams featuring two men and two women on their roster.

Premier Level

Premier Level will feature the 48 top pros in the sport.

  • Premier Level teams for 2024 were determined by Dutch Auction, with the 12 highest-bidding teams securing their place in the Premier Level
  • These teams will feature the absolute best pros in the sport, with high-intensity, thrilling, on-court action
  • The Premier Level Draft operated by dynamic bidding for each draft slot, giving teams the chance to utilize whatever bidding strategy that they see fit in order to build the best roster of four

Challenger Level

Challenger Level features a crop of 40 players who are looking to become pro pickleball’s next stars.

  • Challenger Level has a structure unique to U.S. pro sports, with the top four teams at the end of 2024 earning promotion to the Premier Level in 2025
  • The Challenger Level Draft operated under the snake format, with teams picking in order from 1-12 in Rounds 1 and 3 and in reverse 12-1 order in Rounds 2 and 4

Regular Season (Eight Events; May-Oct.)

The bulk of the 2024 MLP schedule will consist of eight different regular season events, each featuring a collection of the 24 MLP teams playing multiple matches.

  • ALL TEAMS will participate in five of the eight total regular season events
  • Every team will be scheduled to play a total of 23 regular season matches over their five events
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Regular Season Standings

A total of three standings points will be earned in every regular season match. The cumulative season-long standings will be calculated at both levels.

  • Standings points are earned in every match as follows:
    • 3 Points: Regulation win (i.e.: 3-1 or 4-0 win; no DreamBreaker needed)
    • 2 Points: DreamBreaker win (i.e.: 3-2 win)
    • 1 Point: DreamBreaker loss (i.e.: 2-3 loss)
    • 0 Points: Regulation loss (i.e.: 1-3 or 0-4 loss; no DreamBreaker needed)
  • At both levels, the six teams with the most points at the end of the regular season will earn entry into the 2024 MLP Playoffs. If there is a tie between two or more teams with the same number of points, the tiebreaker will be net games from regular season matches.

2024 MLP Mid-Season Tournament (July 10-14 in Grand Rapids, MI)

The Mid-Season Tournament will feature all 22 MLP franchises competing in a double elimination bracket to crown a midseason tournament champion. 

  • In a first-of-its-kind event, Premier & Challenger teams will be competing against each other in the same bracket
  • The tournament will be double elimination; each team will play a minimum of two (2) matches
  • Teams will be seeded based on their record after the first two events (i.e., MLP Atlanta & MLP Washington DC)
    • Premier Teams will be seeded from 1-12
    • Challenger Teams will be seeded 13-22
  • The bracket will be released on June 20, showing where teams are seeded
  • Prize payouts totaling $200,000 will be on the line:
    • Winning team earns $100,000
    • Second Place earns $40,000
    • Third Place earns $20,000
    • Winning team in each match earns $1,000 (40 total matches will be played)

2024 MLP Playoffs

At both Premier and Challenger levels, qualifying 2024 MLP Playoffs teams will be seeded No. 1-6.

  • For both levels, Round 1 will see seeds No. 3-6 in action, with No. 1 and No. 2 earning byes into the Semifinals
    • Seeds No. 3-6 will compete in the first round of the playoffs, a best-of-three matches format
  • Highest seeded team (No. 3) will select the opponent they would like to face in Round 1
  • The higher seeded team in each matchup will receive first choice on all four decisions for all playoff matches and respond to the lineup for the DreamBreaker:
    • Serve / Receive; Side; Respond in mixed; Gender doubles order
  • These matches will be a best-of-three, and the first team to win two matches will advance to the next round of the playoffs
  • For both levels, Round 2 will comprise the Semifinals and Finals:
    • Participating teams will again play a best-of-three matches format
    • Higher seeded teams will receive the same benefits as the first round of the playoffs
      • The No. 1 seed must select its opponent from the two teams that advanced from Round 1 (i.e., they can’t select the No. 2 seed)

Match Scoring

MLP will continue to utilize a rally scoring system, with the following changes to the previous format:

  • Games will be played to 25 points, with a winning margin of at least two points
  • There will be NO freeze at any point and a point will be won on every serve; teams will be able to win a game either while receiving the serve or while serving
  • DreamBreakers will be played to 21 points
  • NOTE: UPA/MLP is evaluating current match scoring to maximize sports betting and may introduce changes in the future

Waiver Wire

Both Premier & Challenger teams will be allowed to participate in the waiver wire process to make changes to their roster. There will be four waiver wires during the course of the 2024 season (following every other MLP regular season event), with Premier Level waivers executed on the Wednesday following these events and Challenger Level waivers executed on the Thursday following these events:

  • Following MLP Washington D.C. (event concludes June 16; waivers on June 19 and 20)
  • Following MLP Kansas City (event concludes August 5; waivers on August 7 and 8)
  • Following MLP Virginia Beach (event concludes September 29; waivers on October 2 and 3)
  • Following MLP Miami (event concludes October 27; waivers on October 30 and 31)

The waiver wire order will be determined based on the reverse order of points earned per match played and teams can make up to two waiver selections in a given period (the order will stay the same for any Round 2 moves). The waiver order will be shared with teams on the day following the conclusion of the final event for each waiver period. Waiver slots can be utilized in trades or used to make a selection by the teams.

  • Premier teams will participate first in the waiver wire and any player dropped by a Premier team will be eligible for another Premier team to pick up
  • If that player goes unclaimed, they will be eligible for the Challenger waiver wire process

Waiver selections must be submitted to both the MLP CEO (Bruce Popko) and the MLP Head of Competition (Courtney Johnson) via email by the time your team’s selection is due. MLP will announce waiver add/drops to all teams via email and within a shared spreadsheet immediately following each selection.

In addition to any waived players, a team may make a waiver claim on a non-contracted player but the player must have a signed League contract before they step foot on court.


Teams will be allowed to execute trades at any point after both drafts (i.e., Premier & Challenger) and until the completion of MLP Virginia Beach on Sept. 29Trade exceptions due to injury and/or pregnancy for a player will be allowed after this date – subject to league approval.

  • Teams will be allowed to trade any of the following with another team and all trades will be subject to league approval and will be executed in a timely manner:
    • Players: Can be traded – either within or between Premier and Challenger – and teams must maintain two men and two women on their roster at all times
    • Cash Compensation: Up to $200,000 per trade; any financial compensation as part of a trade goes straight to a team (no allocation to the league)
    • Waiver Wire Selections Slots: Only waiver selection slots for the current season are eligible to be traded and waiver slots can only be traded within a level
      • Limited to Premier for Premier or Challenger for Challenger; Premier for Challenger swaps are invalid
  • The process for submitting trades is as follows:
    • One trade partner must email both the MLP CEO & the MLP Head of Competition – copying in a representative from the other team involved in the transaction – with the full and agreed to trade parameters
    • The league will need to approve the full trade, and all details (players, cash, waiver slots) MUST be included in the email
    • Once approved, the teams will be told to contact their player to inform them of the transaction (teams should be responsible for first contacting the player they are trading away, then should reach out to the player they are acquiring, once all players have been informed)
    • MLP will share the news both with all teams and publicly, following the players being informed


The Premier & Challenger injury process will operate as follows:

  • If an injury is to occur during an MLP event, a team will be allowed to replace the player by choosing from an available pool of alternates provided by the league; that list will be made available one week prior to each event. NOTE: Premier teams will NO LONGER be able to select replacement players from Challenger teams who are at the event. A Premier team will be allowed to trade for Challenger players during an event, but those trades need to go through the process outlined above
  • If a team needs to replace a player between MLP events and they are unable to execute a trade to replace the injured player, they will be allowed to make a selection from the available waiver wire player pool
  • All teams will have one “Injured Reserve” slot where a player can be placed and the team will maintain the rights to keep that player on their roster and reactivate them once they have recovered from injury
    • A player cannot play during an event for which they have been placed on IR and they must be cleared to play between events – with a corresponding player waived at that time – before they can resume playing with their team
  • In case of injury between events, MLP will allow a loan system in 2024, as follows:
    • A Premier Level team may acquire a Challenger Level player whose team is not playing in that event via the loan system; the loaned player will play for the acquiring team only for that event
    • The team loaning out the player may receive cash compensation (up to $200,000)
    • Challenger Level players may not acquire a Premier Level player via the loan system
    • Teams will not be allowed to loan a player if they are both playing at an event (they must choose from the allotted players provided at the event)
  • Injury transactions (IR designations and any corresponding moves) must be emailed to the MLP CEO and the MLP Head of Competition, who will then share the roster move information with all teams
  • Any additional IR slots must be approved by the league

Player Keepers

Teams will be able to retain players for multiple seasons, under the following guidelines:

  • Premier – Teams will have the ability to keep two players for up to three (3) years and one player for up to two (2) years. Teams will have to pay 50% of the Year 1 Draft Points used for the slot with which the player was drafted, in order to keep that player for additional years (i.e., Years 2 and 3). For example, if a team spent 400,000 Draft Points for a draft slot and selected John Doe, they will need to pay $200,000 In Year 2 if they want to keep John Doe and an additional $200,000 in Year 3. If they elect not to pick up that option, the player returns into the “free agency “ pool and can be selected by another team.
  • Challenger – Promoted to Premier for 2025 (four (4) teams): These teams will have the same ability as Premier teams to keep two players for up to three (3) years and one player for up to two (2) years). All teams competing in Premier in 2025 (12 original + 4 teams promoted from Challenger) will participate in a Free Agency process that will replicate the dynamic bidding format used for the 2024 Premier Draft. Teams will have the ability to bid on free agent slots to select an available free agent. There will be no set budget and all money spent will be out of pocket. Additional information on this process will be shared in the lead up to free agency, before the end of the 2024 season. 
    • Staying in Challenger for 2025 (six (6) teams): These teams will have the ability to keep two players for up to three (3) years and one player for up to two (2) years. They will then need to sign free agent(s) at the end of every year to round out their roster. The Free Agency process for Challenger will be shared at a later date.  


MLP will have a variety of individual awards for the 2024 Regular Season, Mid-Season Tournament, and 2024 MLP Playoffs, and use a combination of votes from players, team representatives, and fans to determine the following awards for both Premier & Challenger levels.

  • Regular Season Awards
    • Most Valuable Player
    • Most Improved Player
    • 1st and 2nd Team All MLP for Premier & Challenger (Two men and two women on each)
  • Midseason & Playoff Awards
    • Most Valuable Player
    • All MLP Team (Two men and two women)
Erik Tice

Erik Tice

Erik produces content for The Dink related to pro and collegiate pickleball. He is an avid watcher of pickleball and became passionate about the sport in early 2022.

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