Minor League Pickleball

What is Minor League Pickleball? Minor League Pickleball is an innovative team competition where teams of four players (2 women and 2 men) compete against each other. Instead of having a team with only one partner, like in regular doubles tournaments, you are playing with three others on your team.

The format is amazingly fun and engaging because, whenever you’re not playing, you’re watching, cheering, and coaching your teammates to victory. Each match consists of 4 games, starting with one women’s doubles game, followed by one men’s doubles game, and then two mixed doubles games.

If two teams are tied after these four games, an innovative tiebreaker known as the “DreamBreaker™” is played, with a rotational system involving all four players. All games are played to 21 using MLP rally scoring. MLP stands for Major League Pickleball and you can learn more about the MLPlay format here.

Teams first play each other in group or round-robin play, and then the top teams square off in a single-elimination format. Awards are given in the form of medals and plaques to the top three performing teams but some events also award prize money, specially when you get into the higher divisions.

These are your typical team divisions:

  • DUPR 22 (The team’s aggregate DUPR must not exceed 22.30).
  • DUPR 20 (The team’s aggregate DUPR must not exceed 20.30).
  • DUPR 18 (The team’s aggregate DUPR must not exceed 18.30)
  • DUPR 16 (The team’s aggregate DUPR must not exceed 16.30)
  • DUPR 14 (The team’s aggregate DUPR must not exceed 14.30) 

The DUPR 22 division is not as common. You’ll usually only see teams at this level at the bigger MiLP tournaments because pretty much pre-MLP. If you think of it the team aggregate DUPR of MLP teams, Challenger level teams would total around 24 and Premier level teams would total around 26.

Another division that is not very common is DUPR 12. Although, I think with my friend Caroline Luelf now part of of the MiLP team, they are piloting these going forward to get even more players involved.

Once you play in one of these events, you’ll get completely addicted. The energy and the atmosphere is unlike any other tournament. The camaraderie that you share with your teammates just elevates the whole tournament experience.

Here are some highlights from the MiLP team tournament that we hosted at Crestview Country Club earlier this month. The event was presented by iPickle Nation and Just Paddles.

It was a sold out event with 4 teams each in DUPR 14 and DUPR 20 divisions and 8 teams each in DUPR 16 and DUPR 18 divisions. DUPR 16 usually fills up first, followed by DUPR 18, because more players kind of fall in this category in terms of their DUPR ratings. Yes, you do have to have a DUPR account and rating to play in one of these. The sum of each team members’ DUPR rating determines the team aggregate/total and that determines the team’s division.

Of course, DUPR is dynamic so ratings are constantly going up and down. The ratings at the time of registration are what matters so, for the event we had in Wichita, there were several players whose ratings actually went up after their registered and their total went above 18.30 but they were still able to play in DUPR 18 level. Teams can choose to play up a division (except for DUPR 22, which strictly requires at minimum a team aggregate of 20.30 or better) but, considering the predictive nature of DUPR, competition is much tougher if you are playing against teams with players much higher rated than you and your teammates. There are sometimes upsets but, most of the time, the higher DUPR wins.

If you would like to participate in one of these events, the next nearest one is on November 25, 2023 in Kansas City at the Clayview Genesis Health Club. Tulsa is also hosting Oklahoma Paddle Royale 003 in January 2024 at their new Topseed Pickleball facility. Registration is currently open for both of these events which are within driving distance of Wichita. Points earned from both of these two tournaments (and pretty much any tournaments from this point forward) will go toward eligibility for 2024 MiLP Nationals. For those wondering about the significance of earning points, teams that play in MiLP tournaments earn points toward qualifying for the national MiLP event. The top 12-16 performing teams in each division then get to compete for the national championship and cash prizes.

For this year, the MiLP National Championship will be held December 15-17, 2023 in Fountain Valley, CA. There’s $31,000 in cash prizes which will be spread between all the divisions. You can learn more about the event and see a list of registered teams here. We have some friends who are competing in it this year and I cannot wait to hear about their experience. Good luck to all!

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