America. We don’t settle for small and simple here, do we? This inaugural season of Toyota Minor League Cricket did not launch with a handful of teams, but with 27 of them in 21 different cities all over the United States. And fittingly, on Labor Day Weekend, we’re going supersized with our biggest set of games yet: 35 of them spread over the three-day holiday weekend. All 27 teams will take part and playoff positions are on the line, with only two rounds of regular season games remaining after this one.
As you can see from the locations above, it all looks a little different this weekend, too: no matches on the west coast, with interdivisional play bringing some fresh matchups into play that will allow us to understand a little better how the teams in the Pacific Conference stand against each other outside of divisional performance.
In our first power rankings of the season, Tom Nielsen noted this will make it tricky to predict how these match-ups will go.
With no cross-over matches between the Central and Western Division played to date, it’s difficult to gauge how these matches will go. Each team will play three cross-over matches against three different teams from the other division – so what we can do is evaluate how difficult each team’s 3-match slate is this weekend. The teams are essentially sorted into two “pods” in St. Louis and Texas. In St. Louis, we’ll have Michigan, St. Louis, and the Chicago teams from the Central facing off against the Bay Area teams and Seattle from the West. Down in Texas, it’ll be the Texas teams against Southern California.
What we do know is we’ll get a better gauge on how strong some of the best teams in the Western Division really are: the top three teams from Northern California have dominated, but will face challenging matches on unfamiliar wickets. The first-place Blazers will take on a hot Michigan Cricket Stars team on Sunday in St. Louis, and the second-place Golden State Grizzlies will face the same opponents on Monday.
On the flip side, it’ll be an interesting weekend for the Central Division teams making a last gasp at making ground-up in the playoff race: the schedule gods have thrown the fifth-placed Blasters against the top three teams in the West, the Blazers (on Saturday), Grizzlies (on Sunday) and Strikers (on Monday). If they come out of that weekend with some results, Chicago – who have won two of their last three games – will have momentum. The fourth-place Mustangs, by contrast, take on the bottom three teams in the West – the Surf Riders, Lashings and Master Blasters. Fail to come out of those matches with a strong set of points and Irving can probably wave goodbye to the playoffs.
Over in the Atlantic Conference, it’ll be quite the weekend at Church St. Park in Morrisville, as the two New York teams, the Empire State Titans and Manhattan Yorkers, head down to North Carolina. Both will play the first-place Cardinals on Saturday, and it’ll be a real test of interdivisional strength: our power rankings have the Titans in second place in the Atlantic, with the Cardinals sixth and Yorkers not far behind in eighth.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Southern Division, the Fire – the strongest team in the South so far in our rankings – will be severely tested in a marquee matchup on Saturday as the visiting DC Hawks (third in the table above) will be desperate to win and stay in second place in the Eastern Division ahead of the charging Philadelphians. The latter face a pair of more comfortable matchups against the Galaxy and Beamers, who sit in fourth and fifth in the Southern standings.
We suggest you make this Labor Day a cricket-filled one and head out to a match if there’s one near you – or settle back and tune-in to all 35 games live and free on Willow TV’s YouTube channel! Here are all the match-ups – so many this weekend we can’t even fit them on one graphic!