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In a media release issued today, ICC announced that the ICC Intercontinental Cup (I Cup) will henceforth be a biennial eight-team, first-class tournament giving USA a chance to qualify for the next edition of the cup. Scheduled to run from May 2011 until December 2012, the I Cup features six nations with ODI status - Afghanistan, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands and Scotland.
In addition, two places will be determined by the ICC Development Committee from the top four teams of the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 2 (WCL Div. 2), leaving the doors slightly ajar for USA to qualify.
For USA to actually make the short-list, it must achieve a top-two finish in WCL Division 3, to be played in Hong Kong between January 22-29, 2011. Top two finishers will join Bermuda, Namibia, UAE and Uganda in the WCL Div 2 event, which is scheduled for April 2011 in Dubai. The I Cup will begin in May 2011 on a round-robin basis with the top two teams progressing towards the final.
Once it joins this rarefied group, the biggest hurdle for USA will be to find players who can devote more of their time to cricket than their current jobs permit, which boils down to providing a contract to the players.
ICC Global Development Manager Matthew Kennedy said: "In making this decision, consideration was given to the international cricket opportunities now provided to all 95 Associate and Affiliate Members across all three formats of the game.
"With balancing these formats in mind, it is important to offer the best non-Test-playing nations the opportunity to compete in meaningful multi-day cricket. And as a result of this expanded I Cup, the second division that was the ICC Intercontinental Shield is no longer required," he added.
It has also been decided that the first 16-team ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier, which will determine the six teams to join the ten Full Members at the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in September 2012, will be staged in the UAE in the early part of 2012.
The Development Committee has confirmed that the regional Twenty20 qualification systems through 2011 will provide the 10 teams that will join the six ODI nations in the WT20 Qualifier. The teams would be drawn from Asia (3), Europe (2), Africa (2), Americas (2) and East Asia Pacific (1), making USA's participation in the Qualifier a near certainty.
Source: ICC Release