The goal of Major League Triathlon is nothing short of audacious. Daniel and Sarah Cassidy, the husband and wife founders, are setting out to completely reinvent the way triathlons are operated, raced and watched.
But the impetus behind this revolution could not be simpler, or more relevant to the future of the sport.
The thing about triathlons is that not only are they looooong, but by necessity they are usually held in remote areas, far from urban centers, making them a nightmare for spectators.
“It was terrible. You wake up at the crack of dawn, and you get to see your husband for like a minute during his race, after a while I was like… I’m not doing this,” says Sarah Cassidy of her years supporting Daniel’s love for competing in triathlons.
The original idea for MLT first took shape when Sarah, who dutifully watched Daniel race for years, gave him a taste of his own medicine when she suggested that he watch her compete in a triathlon for a change.
“It was a sprint race, so it wasn’t that long, but still the hours of waiting just to see her for a few minutes, it wasn’t ideal… and before you knew it the entire day was gone,” says Daniel.
At that moment Daniel and Sarah saw an incredible opportunity to reframe triathlons. By rethinking the length and location of the races they could position triathlons as a spectator sport, and bring in the sponsorship dollars and elite athletes needed to create a national league.
MLT is not just hosting one race, they are starting a national triathlon league, and they’re doing it all from their home base here in Charlotte.
By rethinking traditional triathlons and creating ultra-short sprint races run as relays featuring teams of four, composed of two men and two women, MLT addresses two of the biggest hurdles to triathlons gaining mainstream traction. The time it takes to complete a race, and the actual geographic location of the races. By making these races short sprints, MLT is also amping up the intensity of the sport. You can guarantee the competing triathletes will be going all out the entire time, making for some insanely exhilarating races.
“Towards the end of the race everything is going on at the same time and its chaotic, but it’s also super fun to watch,” says Dylan.
All of MLT’s races are held within a one square mile area, allowing for the races to be hosted in dense urban areas, like Uptown Charlotte. This naturally provides a built in audience base with the potential to expand into the type of festivals we are used to seeing in Uptown. Think Speed Street and Taste of Charlotte. And where there are crowds, the sponsorships are not far behind, followed closely by event vendors, food trucks, music, the whole nine yards.
“I want kids to get up and be excited to go see their favorite racers compete,” says Sarah, who envisions MLT growing into a national league like the NFL and NBA with fans wearing their teams’ jerseys while cheering on their hometown heroes.
MLT is also about taking care of their athlete. Most professional triathletes still have to work a day job just to be able to fund their passion for the sport.
“I was tired of seeing my friends train year round and travel all around the world to compete for $600 in prize money,” says Daniel.
MLT is looking to change that by putting their athletes first, covering all of their travel expenses, and throwing some serious prize money into the mix. This is in turn will attract more top tier athletes, which will lead to faster more exciting races, followed by more spectators and sponsors, you get the idea.
But is just having shorter faster races in more convenient locations enough to get hundreds or thousands of fans excited about triathlons?
The deciding factor could be whether or not the International Olympic Committee decides to make Ultra Short Triathlons an Olympic sport for the 2020 Summer Games. If that happens, then MLT will be uniquely poised to take advantage of a slew of opportunities including hosting Olympic qualifiers and reaping the rewards that the most talented athletes in the world bring to the table, including the potential for Olympic-level sponsors.
MLT is barely a year old, but they’ve already put on four events around the country, and are planning to host even more this year. The MLT team definitely has some learning and growing to do, but the fact that they are even attempting to reimagine the way triathlons operate, while implementing a business plan that includes national expansion, says a lot for this Charlotte start-up.
Look for MLT to host a race here in Charlotte in the spring of 2017. In the meantime check out their Instagram account to enjoy highlights from their first season.
Cover image courtesy of Scott Lindscott