Did you know that cricket is the second most popular sport in the world? Second only to football (aka soccer), this sport with roots in 17th-century England has more than a billion fans worldwide and is especially popular in India and Pakistan.

Many Americans aren’t familiar with the sport – but Major League Cricket is on a mission to change that. Although pro teams have played around the world for most of this century, professional major league cricket made its American debut this month with six teams – including plenty of international stars – playing a championship series in stadiums near Dallas, Texas, and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

Once America’s national pastime – before baseball took over in the late 1800s – cricket may already be more popular on our shores than people realize, especially in Texas. Tickets sold out for most of the matches in the competition, including the final game on July 30 in Grand Prairie, Texas – and there are multiple amateur cricket pitches (fields) around the country, the largest of which is the Prairie View Cricket Complex, a 90-acre, 10-field facility northwest of Houston that has partnered with the nascent pro league to create the first MLC National Cricket Center.

On the MLC website, league co-founder Sameer Mehta says, “The passion fans have shown for Major League Cricket in Texas has demonstrated the bright future the game has in the United States … and this is only the start of a fantastic new era for American cricket.”

Naturally, that new era calls for licensed fan merchandise, and the league’s online shop offers jerseys, T-shirts and caps for four of the six teams, with links to two more team shops on separate sites. Optamark Graphics (PPAI 714796, D3), a Connecticut-based distributor, has partnered with MLC to develop a full promo program that includes uniforms and fan apparel for the four teams selling on its site, as well as gameday giveaways for the league.

For example, fans attending the first match – in triple-digit heat – received a yellow promo flag for the home team, the Texas Super Kings, who won the match and signed the flags for eager fans.

Tarang Gosalia, CEO of Optamark and a self-described “passionate fan” of the sport, sees huge growth potential for cricket and says he’s excited to help the league and teams build their brands.

“There seems to be a real fandom behind the sport, and we’re excited that we have this kind of deal in place with Major League Cricket now, not just now but for next season as well,” he says.

It was important to understand the larger context of the sport in order to develop the initial uniforms and promo offerings, Gosalia adds. The U.S. teams are representative of beloved India Premier League teams, which have huge online fan bases worldwide. The Texas Super Kings are affiliated with the Chennai Super Kings, for example, and their gear needed to reflect that connection.

“They have their own brand standards, their own brand guidelines, their PMS colors from Pantone,” Gosalia says. “We worked with the creative teams at each individual sports franchise. We conceptualized what their current design aesthetic was, and then we created the concept design for the U.S. teams.”

Four essential apparel pieces – jerseys, tees and hats – were selected and produced for the initial fan merch collection using the new team branding elements.

yellow jersey, tees and ball cap for Major League Cricket team Texas Super Kings

Optamark also created bucket hats given to fans attending the games. Those hats and the flags have proved so popular that they will be added to the merch collections online, Gosalia says. He notes strong demand for apparel in children’s sizes, as well.

Online traffic and sales for the initial collection have been “tremendous,” Gosalia says, and a great deal stronger than expected. Texas Super Kings gear sold out halfway through the tournament, prompting a quick reorder for the playoffs, and Optamark will use data collected from the online shop, as well as what they’ve learned from in-person sales at the games, to adjust inventory and expand the product offerings.

“We think there’s a lot of opportunity to build on this,” says Gosalia, “because they’re looking to expand with more and more teams within the league as this league continues to grow – and it’s only season No. 1.”