OKLAHOMA CITY — Athletes Unlimited softball announced Tuesday that it will add a traditional team-based model to its individual championship in 2025.

The Athletes Unlimited Softball League plans to have four teams play 30-game seasons — 60 total games — with ESPN on board as a founding broadcast partner.

Athletes Unlimited co-founder Jon Patricof said the league will tour in six to eight cities before becoming city based in 2026. The cities have yet to be determined. Games are to be played from late May through early July.

The announcement was made at USA Softball headquarters, with USA Softball executive director Craig Cress in attendance.

Patricof said the players had been clamoring for more opportunities, and the growing interest in the sport made now the time to expand.

“It’s really important to do things at the right time when we know we can deliver and when we’re certain of kind of the opportunities that exist so we can measure and deliver on everything we’ve said we were going to do," he said. “And I think that we got to the right time this year where we said now is the time. This void needs to be filled and we should be the organization to fill it.”

Athletes Unlimited will still crown an individual champion with its initial model that began in 2020 after the team season. The current AU Pro Softball Championship Season will be renamed the AUSL Champions Cup beginning in 2025.

The AUX season, the annual shorter version of its individual championship format that started in 2022, will be held in Wichita this year before being replaced by the team model.

Natasha Watley, an advisory board member who played professionally in Japan, said it’s important for the United States to offer a stable league to compete with Japan in international play and to keep the sport growing.

“How many of these young ladies that we’re seeing — how much potential we can see them reach by being able to have that opportunity to extend their careers and play in a legit professional league?” she said.

Patricof said average compensation will be $45,000 and players can make up to $75,000 if they participate in both the team and individual formats. Watley said that would be competitive with what is offered in Japan.

The league will own the teams — something advisory board member Jessica Mendoza said is critical.

“There’s definitely a need for a consistent traditional model in our sport, and I think AU has proven that they have the consistent backing and they have the consistency and the personnel to be able to run professional softball here in the United States," she said.

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