After nine years as a winner-take-all summer basketball showcase, the team behind The Basketball Tournament is expanding to the pitch in 2023.
TBT Enterprises, known for its million-dollar annual winner-take-all basketball tournament, will add a soccer event in 2023, the company announced on Tuesday.
The Basketball Tournament has run for nine summers. In that time, it’s expanded from 32 teams in 2014 to 64 last year. ESPN networks now carry each game from regional sites nationwide.
The 7-on-7 soccer version, TST, will start smaller, taking place over four days next June in Cary, North Carolina. TST hopes it will ultimately become the “defining world championship” for 7v7 soccer, according to a press release.
“We are excited to birth a new event in TST,” TBT and TST founder and CEO Jon Mugar said in the release. “Our model has always been about open access for all, something European soccer embraces through promotion/relegation and events like the FA Cup. We think that model is fantastic for fans. As we have seen with TBT, it attracts dreamers who are passionate about sport.”
Co-owner and Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul echoed those sentiments. He says that the competition is what drove him to join TBT in the first place.
“What drew me to the ownership group is their commitment to creating a great tournament where every minute of every game is meaningful,” Paul said. “The model breeds intense competition and is built for success beyond just basketball. That’s why I’m so excited to be part of the team as we launch TST, and why I expect it to have as much of an impact on the sport of soccer as TBT has had on basketball.”
To get things started, TST has announced its first two teams: Team Dempsey, founded by National Soccer Hall of Famer and former US Men’s National Team star Clint Dempsey, and Hashtag United, the popular British football and esports club.
“TST is an opportunity for players to show what they’ve got,” Dempsey said. “I came from the pickup culture, and we’ll be on the search for unproven talent that may have been overlooked by the American soccer system.”
As Dempsey indicates, TST will be open to all. TBT is the same way, though the teams that ultimately qualify consist almost entirely of former college or professional players.
In 2017, TBT garnered attention for instituting the Elam Ending, a format meant to eliminate excessive late-game fouling. TST will have something similar: Games will consist of two 20-minute halves that will determine a “target score” — the leading team’s score, plus one. The first team to hit that number will win the game.
And before you criticize this idea, TBT has had a tangible impact on basketball in the United States. The NBA has since adopted the Elam Ending for its All-Star Game and in the G League for overtime games.
In addition, TBT instituted a celebration after each game where the advancing team “advances” its own name on a giant physical bracket at each site; the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments have since added a similar ceremony for winning teams. TBT even set the standard for safely conducting sporting events during the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the first events to institute a “bubble.” The NBA and WNBA both followed suit to crown their champions in 2020.
Keep that in mind when the 2026 World Cup rolls around in North America…
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