Jan 26, 2023 - Things to Do

How to watch D.C.'s new Major League Pickleball team

Illustration of a pickleball paddle hitting an exploding ball

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Washingtonians have loved pickleball for a while, and now we have a professional Major League Pickleball team to root for. 

Why it matters: The League is backed by sports giants including LeBron James and Tom Brady. Eva Longoria, Kate Upton, and NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. are all part of the D.C. team’s ownership group.

  • Plus, this professional league will test whether local fans of the sport enjoy watching it as much as they love to play.

Driving the news: The D.C. Pickleball Team (yes, that’s the official name) starts its inaugural season today in Mesa, Arizona. They’ll play at 10am, 1pm, and 4pm ET. Depending on how they do, they’ll advance to the next round on Friday.

  • Stream their matches here. The semifinals and finals will be broadcast on the Tennis Channel.

Meet the team: Each MLP team has four players – two men and two women.

On the D.C. team, former pro tennis player Sam Querrey — who was once ranked 11th in the world — is already ruffling feathers, the Washington Post reports.

Despite being new to pickleball, Querrey predicted that he’d need only three months to become a top 10 player … but then lost his first round of singles, doubles, and mixed doubles matches at his first pro pickleball event earlier this month.

The rest of D.C.'s roster includes DMV local Monica Paolicelli, a former JMU soccer player from McLean; former Coastal Carolina tennis player Shelby Bates from Jupiter, Florida; and former competitive tennis player, gamer and racecar driver Stefan Auvergne from Austin, Texas. 

How it works: MLP athletes have the opportunity to earn sponsorships, appearance fees, and up to $5 million in prize money at league events. 

The league's 24 teams represent cities across the U.S., but athletes aren't required to live or regularly practice in the city they play for, per the Post. 

Half of the MLP teams are ranked as Premier, the highest level of play. The remaining teams (including D.C.) are in the Challenger group – described as up-and-coming talents.

💭 Our thought bubble: We’re excited to cheer for our local pickleball team but we need a better name! Send us your suggestions to: [email protected].


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