It’s been a rocky couple of months for Major League Pickleball (MLP). From a messy merger with the PPA Tour to the resignation of the organization’s founder, Steve Kuhn, there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future of MLP going into this weekend’s big event: MLP Dallas.
We’ve already covered our overall thoughts about the group stage matchups in our MLP Dallas Group Draws Preview article, so be sure to check that out for who we think will succeed and make it to the finals! However, we wanted to point to a few specific matches on the televised Championship and Grandstand courts that should be on your watch list this weekend.
Tomorrow, November 2nd, marks the start of the tournament with the Challenger Level Group Stage. Action will start promptly at 9 a.m. CT and will run until the final match, which begins at 5 p.m. CT. Then, on Friday, November 3rd, the Premier Level will hit the courts for their group stage, running from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
All Championship and Grandstand court matches for both levels will be live-streamed on the MLP’s official YouTube Channel, with ten total matches being split between the two courts each day. Let’s narrow it down to our top three Challenger Level and Premier Level Group Stage matches.
Challenger Level – Thursday, November 2nd
St. Louis Shock vs. New Jersey 5s – 9 a.m. CT on Championship Court
MLP Dallas will kick off the weekend with a great matchup featuring one of our favorite teams: The New Jersey 5s. As we outlined in our group draws preview, the 5s played their hearts out at MLP Atlanta and made it into the playoffs. They’re led by the duo of Shelby Bates and Stefan Auvergne, whose chemistry continues from their Season One tenure with the D.C. Pickleball Team.
The St. Louis Shock went 1-2 in the group stage in Atlanta, but they’ve got some star power, especially in APP Tour players Rob Nunnery and Judit Castillo, both of whom have been achieving podium finishes in nearly every APP event lately. We expect them to hopefully turn it around and reach the playoffs in Dallas – setting the tone in this first match against the 5s will be huge!
Las Vegas Night Owls vs. Milwaukee Mashers – 1 p.m. CT on Championship Court
These are two of our favorite teams coming out of MLP Atlanta. The Night Owls managed to take second place, and they feel like one of the most well-rounded teams in the Challenger Level right now. They’re led by the powerhouse women’s doubles duo of Emily Ackerman and Susannah Barr – star APP players who have proven success in the MLP, and they’re backed up by Spencer Smith and Yates Johnson, who have the potential to be one of the best men’s doubles teams in the league.
The Milwaukee Mashers just barely missed the playoffs in Atlanta, and we think that they could’ve made a run for the finals if the New York Hustlers hadn’t pushed them out. They also picked up Callan Dawson in the recent Challenger Level Shuffle Draft, and we think that he and DJ Young will be a massive threat together in Dallas.
California BLQK Bears vs. Seattle Pioneers – 5 p.m. on Grandstand Court
Despite the BLQK Bears getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs in Atlanta, they 100% proved themselves to be a top competitor in the league and should be considered a top-tier competitor going into Dallas. Alix Truong and Tina Pisnik were one of our favorites to watch, and they won all three games in the group stage together in Dallas.
They also acquired Erik Pailet, who will replace Marshall Brown, a highly controversial move during the draft, as Brown had some of the best stats from his performance in Atlanta. Pailet is a bit of a wild card in our eyes, but maybe he’ll find great chemistry alongside Anderson Scarpa in men’s dubs.
Premier Level – Friday, November 3rd
D.C. Pickleball Team vs. Columbus Sliders – 10 a.m. on Championship Court
Columbus may not have made it to the playoffs at MLP Atlanta, but they did get a sweet new White Castle-inspired redesign. Plus, they’ve got four of the most likable players in pro pickleball, so how could you not root for them in the Premier Level opening match?
The Sliders will face off against the D.C. Pickleball Team, who took home the silver medal in Atlanta. As we’ve repeated time after time, the Kawamotos are the foundation of this team, and they’ve got Riley Newman and Christian Alshon to back them up! We think they excel in gendered doubles, so if they can hone in on mixed ahead of the tournament, there’s a chance we’ll see them take home the gold this time.
Miami Pickleball Club vs. Brooklyn Aces – 12 p.m. on Grandstand Court
Once again, we see the battle of the podcasts: Tyson McGuffin and MPC take on Tyler Loong and the Brooklyn Aces. Strictly from a standings perspective, Miami far outperformed Brooklyn in Atlanta, but you shouldn’t could the Aces down for the count.
The Aces ran into some trouble when Hayden Patriquin had to drop out due to illness, so Gabe Tardio had to step in. While Tardio played well for the Aces, we do think they will have a better chance at victory with Patriquin back in the mix.
Miami looked incredibly strong in Atlanta and also had to call up Allison Harris to sub in for Mary Brascia. Harris earned herself a full-time gig in the Challenger Level with the Mad Drops thanks to her stellar performance in the Premier Level, but we’re excited to see how MPC does with Brascia returning. She will partner with Hurricane Tyra Black for women’s dubs – watch out for this team!
Orlando Squeeze vs. Chicago Slice – 2 p.m. on Championship Court
Capping off our list of favorite group stage matches is the Orlando Squeeze versus the Chicago Slice. This is likely to be the show-stopper match of the group stage! We are big fans of both teams and expect them to battle it out for a spot in the playoffs throughout the group stage.
The Squeeze are the champions from the MLP Atlanta Premier Level and will continue to prove themselves as a dominant force in Dallas. Andrei Daescu is one of our favorite players in the APP, and Anna Bright is one of our favorite players on the PPA Tour – what’s not to love about the Squeeze? Plus, they’re backed up by Zane Navratil and Rachel Rohrabacher, who is already proving herself to be one of pro pickleball’s rising stars.
The Slice is led by pickleball’s number one player, Ben Johns, and he’s got plenty of other talent to back him up. Erik Lange partnering with Johns in men’s dubs was one of our favorite teams to watch in Atlanta – the number one overall pick and the last overall pick teamed up and found a ton of success on the court together!
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