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Todd Fought hits a pickleball backhand.
Todd Fought competing at the 2023 Season 2 Challenger Playoffs in San Clemente, CA. Major League Pickleball

Everything to know for the upcoming MLP drafts

DALLAS, TX - It feels weird to say it, but we’re just a few days away from the 2024 Major League Pickleball drafts.

The Premier and Challenger level drafts are set to take place next week during the early stages of the PPA’s Fanatics Sportsbook North Carolina Open presented by CIBC.

Here’s my attempt to get you caught up on everything MLP in preparation for what is sure to be an exciting 2024 season.

MLP Competition

Major League Pickleball offers a team-based format that differs from—but compliments—the individual, tournament-style competition of PPA events.

MLP teams are made up of four players: two men and two women.

There are two levels to MLP competition: Premier and Challenger. Premier is the higher level and features the upper echelon of the world’s best players.

Here’s which teams will compete at each level in 2024.

The 2024 MLP teams with their levels.
The 2024 MLP teams with their levels. Major League Pickleball

When two teams compete against each other, they play four doubles matches: two in gender doubles, and two in mixed doubles.

The matches are played to 25 (new starting in 2024) win by two with rally scoring (no pause, meaning teams don't have to win match point on serve), and each player competes in two matches.

If the teams are tied 2-2 after the first four matches, then a dreambreaker ensues. Each player plays 4 singles points against their opponent before they both rotate out and the next player from each team takes the court.

This process continues until one team gets to 25 with rally scoring (same rules from above apply), and the winner of the dreambreaker takes the match.

Here's what MLP looks like at its best.

MLP Premier Level Draft

The MLP Premier Level draft will take place on Tuesday, April 2 at 6pm ET virtually and be run from PPA headquarters in Dallas. The first two hours of the event will be livestreamed on PickleballTV.com, as well as the PPA and MLP YouTube channels.

It will feature a dynamic bidding process where each team has a budget of “currency” it can bid and spend on particular draft slots.

It's important to note here that teams will bid on draft slots and not on the actual players themselves, although they'll most likely know who they want if they spend a chunk of their budget to get a pick.

Once the bidding period starts, teams will have 30 seconds to consider and respond to each one until the pick is awarded to the team that bids the most.

After that, the winning team will have three minutes to select a player with their pick.

If multiple teams bid their remaining available budget (not including the currency needed to make a minimum bid for any remaining picks they need so that they end up with four players at the end of the draft), then those teams will go into a side room away from the general draft room to continue bidding. The currency for this additional bidding has not been disclosed.

With this format, we may very well see teams spend large amounts of their budgets to take a player like Ben Johns with the first overall pick.

MLP Challenger Level Draft

The MLP Challenger Level draft will take place the very next day (Wednesday, April 3), again at 6PM ET.

Thankfully, the format for this one is a bit simpler. It will run as a snake draft, much like other MLP drafts that have taken place over the years.

The draft order was determined randomly and is available here.

Who is eligible to be drafted?

Unsurprisingly, all the players who signed contracts with the merged UPA organization are eligible to be drafted. The same is true for players who kept their original, pre-merger contracts with MLP and are currently not under contract with the UPA, like Riley Newman.

Part of the fun of MLP, especially at the Challenger level, is getting to discover previously little-known players. It’s fortunate, then, that players who don’t have contracts with either UPA or MLP are eligible to be drafted and can even earn an entry level contract if they make it onto a team.

Even though the full player pool hasn’t been released yet, some players have already publicly withdrawn their applications for the draft. Those players include Jill Braverman, Susannah Barr, and Megan Fudge DeHeart and Ryler DeHeart.

Stay tuned for more updates about what to expect from next week’s MLP drafts.

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