It is clear that all the ‘Tour Wars’ drama isn’t completely going away as we are seeing with Julian Arnold and Lauren Stratman’s reported absences from MLP. The merger between MLP and the PPA has also brought about some immediate big changes to MLP in 2023. While we posted our previews/predictions earlier in the week for both Premier and Challenger, we thought it would be helpful to provide an article on what fans need to know about MLP going into season 2. One of the biggest complaints about MLP from fans is how hard it is to follow what is going on. Frankly, MLP is not making it easy with the constant changes. Let’s get into the most important need to knows about MLP for the rest of 2023.
(1) The Freeze is Gone From Rally Scoring.
In what is now the 4th iteration of a scoring system for MLP since its inception, MLP has taken away the freeze completely from its rally scoring system. From now on, the team winning the rally will score a point regardless of whether they are serving, except to win the match. In other words, the only time a team has to score on its serve is on the final point to win a match (matches still have to be won by 2 points). For the first event in 2022, MLP froze both teams when they reached 20 points in a match, meaning they would have to score on their serve for every point won after 20-20 as well as win by 2 to win the match. After that first event of 2022, MLP changed it so that the first time to get to 20 was frozen and the team behind would be frozen at 18, unless they were already at 19 points.
We haven’t seen anything publicly from MLP announcing the new scoring change. This has only been sent out in an email to players, owners and team personnel. It is baffling that MLP hasn’t announced this change publicly along with some reasoning behind the change to make fans aware of what is going on. It’s hard to say whether this is good or bad without having the data behind the change. Intuitively, the removal of the freeze should lead to more upsets while still providing more of an advantage than the initial freeze at 20 scoring system did for the team that reaches 20 points first. If the goal is to allow for a few more upsets, then this change may have that effect.
(2) The Promotion/Relegation System is Being Put on Hold for 2024
The signing frenzy and subsequent merger led to a great deal of uncertainty as to whether teams would have their full roster at every event for season 2. Those fears appear to have been confirmed with the expected absences of Lauren Stratman and Julian Arnold in Atlanta and possibly the remainder of 2023. As a result, MLP has decided to hold off on implementing a promotion/relegation system for 2024. The whole idea for 2023 was that the season long results would determine which franchises started 2024 in the Premier division and which franchises started 2024 in Challenger. That was going to be a big deal for teams as being in Premier versus Challenger could have been the difference in millions of dollars for their franchise valuations.
With the high stakes of 2024 being removed from the equation, the season 2 results are not nearly as important for the team owners and it means that we are back to MLP events being mostly about bragging rights for owners. It is less pressure overall on all parties involved and we’ll have to see if that leads to a more mellow atmosphere in season 2. There is still a lot of prize money and 2024 free agency on the line for players so there isn’t any reason that they should be mailing it in. We’re a broken record on this subject, but they are going to have to settle on a format for MLP’s team events sooner rather than later. Fans need to know how things are going to work if they are going to get invested.
(3) There Will be Players Missing from the Atlanta Event
Until Tuesday, there wasn’t any indication that pros would choose not to attend the Atlanta event. Although there was some discussion about boycotts for players at different times, it seemed like Atlanta was full steam ahead. However, we have 4 confirmed absences. One is not by choice, and that is Mary Brascia, who is apparently dealing with an illness. It sounds like AJ Koller is out as he was already slated to miss Saturday due to the wedding of his sister and now may have chosen to skip the event altogether. Julian Arnold and Lauren Stratman are the other two players who are choosing not to play.
The Stratman and Arnold situation is very odd. There does not appear to be any reason that two of the players that benefited most from the signing frenzy would not attend Atlanta. Most of the PPA signed players are attending so this isn’t about some kind of directive from the PPA. Although it pales in comparison to their PPA contracts, Arnold and Stratman are foregoing their appearance fee from attending MLP and the opportunity to win a good chunk of prize money. Julian Arnold made a bunch of money winning one event and the Super Final in season one so why they would decide not to go to Atlanta is confusing. It may simply come down to the juice not being worth the squeeze now that they will each be getting more than half a million dollars annually for the next 3 years. Even so, at a minimum, you would think with the merger they would want to avoid pissing anyone off. A mystery, indeed.
We’ll update this if any more players are not attending.
(4) You Can Find the Team Rosters on MLP’s Website (Sort of) and in the Link Below
MLP’s website does not make it easy to track the players on each roster. They have the teams listed with photos of each of the players and their combined DUPRs. However, if you don’t know what every single player looks like in a tiny image on your phone, it might be hard for you to figure out who is on which team. You have to go to each individual team on the MLP site for their roster. In an attempt to make things easier, you can follow this link to a table that has all the team rosters on it – created by Waggish.
(5) You Can Watch the Action on MLP’s YouTube Page, except for the Premier Semi-Finals and Finals
If you aren’t subscribed to the Major League Pickleball YouTube page, you should go do that as you won’t have to search for the stream once you’re subscribed. They will have four courts streaming most of Thursday and Friday with the action starting at 9am EST. You can find the full schedule on MLP’s website. Remember, Thursday is Challenger round robin day and Friday is Premier round robin day and Challenger playoffs.
The finals will be televised on ESPN2 on Sunday at 1pm EST, which means it won’t be on MLP’s YouTube page. Most Americans should have ESPN2 as part of their cable package, if you have cable that is. The Premier semi-finals will be televised on Sunday starting at 8am EST. The PPA typically has simulcast YouTube streaming when their coverage is on Tennis Channel, but it is unclear if that will be the case for MLP this weekend. MLP should make this clearer ahead of time.
(6) Follow the Action on our Live Blog
We’ll be providing thoughts along with Pickleball Jan (aka Waggish) for all four days on our live random thoughts post. MLP’s website is much better than it used to be in terms of tracking scores and standings from the event, but you have to come back to the blog if you want commentary on the matches as well as how the teams are performing.