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Minor League Pickleball vs Amateur Leagues: What’s the Difference?

Unraveling the distinction between Minor League Pickleball and Amateur Pickleball

August 07 2023
With all the hoopla surrounding pickleball these days, one league has stood out to us: Major League Pickleball. The MLP has received a lot of attention recently given its influx of celebrity endorsements and ownership deals. With so much attention on MLP, another league has volleyed its way into the limelight: Minor League Pickleball, which is owned and operated by its parent MLP.

Minor League Pickleball

Minor League Pickleball Tampa Showdown - Photo Credit: Major League Pickleball YouTube Channel
Minor League Pickleball Tampa Showdown - Photo Credit: Major League Pickleball YouTube Channel

Taking a cue from Major League Baseball, MiLP is a professional pickleball league founded in 2018 as a feeder league for MLP, providing players with an opportunity to compete at a high level and earn prize money while increasing their visibility in the world and sport of pickleball. The MiLP serves as a stepping stone to MLP.

MiLP has expanded to a 16-team league, with each team consisting of four players (two men and two women). Teams compete in a round-robin format, with the top four teams at the end of the season qualify for the playoffs.

MiLP is played under the same rules as the MLP, and the matches are played on a 21-point scoring system. The MiLP also has a unique twist on the traditional match-up format, with teams competing in a four game format consisting of women's doubles, men's doubles, and two games of mixed doubles.

Despite the name, however, this minor league system is not to be confused with amateur pickleball leagues. 

Amateur Pickleball Leagues

While keeping up with a 'who's who' of league names and positioning is as challenging as life on the court as this competitive segment is literally 'in-play', here's a look at the dynamic landscape of the leagues dominating the scene now - and a glimpse at the shape of leagues to come.

Amateur Athletic Union (AAU)

AAU Pickleball sports - Photo Credit -
AAU Pickleball sports - Photo Credit -

Founded in 1888, the Amateur Athletic Union is a U.S.-based amateur sports organization with more than 700,000 members nationwide. The AAU Pickleball program offers athletes a variety of tournaments for players of all skill levels, including beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The AAU also offers a variety of formats, including singles, doubles, and mixed doubles.

The AAU National Indoor Pickleball Championships are scheduled to take place in December 2023 in Orlando, Florida. 

Amateur Pickleball Association (APA)

APA Pickleball game - Photo Credit:
APA Pickleball game - Photo Credit:

The Amateur Pickleball Association, colloquially known as the APA, was formed in 2021 as part of The 1965 Group. Based out of Indiana, the APA organizes a variety of pickleball events across the country. These events cater to different age groups, including youths (ages 8-18U), a special "Collegiate Series" for current college students, and an open series based on skill levels. The venues for these events are usually NCAA varsity tennis facilities and other renowned tennis/pickleball destinations.

The APA organizes official tournaments at both the state and national levels throughout the country. These tournaments adhere to the rules and guidelines set forth by the USA Pickleball Association, which serves as the national governing body for the sport. While the format of each event may vary depending on the location, there is usually a focus on providing "instruction" for participants in the entry-level divisions, along with opportunities for competitive tournament play.


BYU fosters pickleball play - Photo Credit: The Daily Universe - BYU
BYU fosters pickleball play - Photo Credit: The Daily Universe - BYU

While pickleball has yet to be officially recognized as a collegiate sport by the NCAA, there is an ongoing effort to bring pickleball into the collegiate sphere. While the APA organizes a “Collegiate Series” of events catered specifically to current college students, the U.S. Collegiate Pickleball Association is making a concerted effort to grow the game on college campuses around the country. 

DUPR, the official ratings system for MLP, is also spearheading a collegiate tournament series featuring 12 regional tournaments and a national championship. The DUPR Collegiate National Championship will take place from November 17th-19th 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia with $31,000 in scholarship money being awarded. 

World Pickleball Tour (WPT)

Upcoming events - Photo Credit: Coronado Eagle
Upcoming events - Photo Credit: Coronado Eagle

The World Pickleball Tour is a series of pickleball events focused on the amateur experience. It has become one of the most renowned amateur pickleball tours in the country. 

The WPT’s Amateur Championships will be taking place January 11-15, 2024 at the Oasis Pickleball Club in Rockwall, Texas. 

Xtreme Pickleball League (XPL)

skill level - Photo Credit:
Skill level - Photo Credit:

The XPL was founded in 2020 and is a national league with teams in over 20 states. The league offers a variety of divisions for players of all skill levels, including beginner, intermediate, and advanced. It's a Global Official Pickleball Rating (GOPR)-sanctioned league, and anyone can join. Players must compete in at least 35 games against any GOPR member to qualify for the playoffs.

Amateur Pickleball League (APL)

Amateur Pickleball League team format  - Photo Credit:
Amateur Pickleball League team format  - Photo Credit:

Part of the XPL, the APL, which launches on September 16, 2023, is a unique team competition designed exclusively for amateur pickleball players. In this event, teams comprising of six to twelve players, with an equal distribution of three to six women and three to six men, will come together to engage in friendly yet competitive battles.

Universal Tennis (UTR) Pickleball Flex Leagues

Pickleball Flex Leagues - Photo Credit:
Pickleball Flex Leagues - Photo Credit:

Universal Tennis is a global tennis rating system founded in 2008. The rating system uses a single 16-point scale to rate players of all skill levels, regardless of age, gender, or nationality. UTR ratings are based on match results, and they are updated after every match.

UTR has recently become the official and exclusive ratings partner for the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP).

Universal Tennis has also launced Pickleball Flex Leagues, which are now live in 30 cities across the United States. Doubles and singles leagues play four matches over a five week period long and are open to all adults.

Future Events

In short, there is a league for everyone, so stay tuned for our coverage of upcoming amateur pickleball play.

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