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PBR eager to showcase new team format in Las Vegas

Count two-time Professional Bull Riders world champion and former UNLV student Justin McBride among those who like the team concept in bull riding.

“I look at it like a great football team or basketball team or any great team you see out there in sports,” he said. “When you get those athletes to buy into a common goal and everybody gets on the same page … I think you see guys better than what you normally see.”

The PBR is descending again upon South Point Arena for its inaugural Monster Energy Team Cup beginning Friday. The event will not include spectators amid the coronavirus pandemic, but it will introduce a new team format in which 48 riders will comprise 12 teams and compete against one another every weekend throughout June before concluding the event next month in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The team format is not entirely unique to the PBR, which contests its annual Global Cup between riders from different countries. But it’s the first of its kind to be weaved into its regular season.

Competition will be televised on CBS and CBS Sports Network.

“I think it has the potential to really elevate our sport,” said McBride, who is serving as the general manager of one of the 12 teams.

“From a competition standpoint, I think you get more out of guys. I think they put more out when they’re accountable to teammates as opposed to just being accountable to themselves,” he added. “From a fan standpoint, I think it gives you a little bit more there. Instead of rooting for just your favorite guy … you can really hone in on a team now. It’s the same with any type of sport.”

The PBR was the first American sports organization to resume operation amid the pandemic, developing a comprehensive safety plan and holding three events without spectators in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Commissioner Sean Gleason sought to introduce an innovative idea to the tour during the down time and is drawing on some of the concepts used in the Global Cup.

”We’ve been looking at ways that we might integrate that into non-international events. Not based by country but team based,” Gleason said. “We decided that we were going to be bolder and braver and go to Vegas and try this new format.”

Riders were split into teams, with each featuring a general manager who sets the lineup, a captain and three other riders. The 12 teams are divided into two groups of six.

Division A will compete at South Point the first two weekends in June. Division B will compete the last two weekends.

The top three teams in each division by win-loss record will advance to the championship at the Denny Sanford Premier Center from July 10 through 12, and fans will be able to attend the finale.

McBride expressed a sense of optimism about the new format, and riders are eager to showcase their skills in Las Vegas alongside one another.

“I think it’ll make everybody try a little bit harder and appreciate the camaraderie we have for each other,” rider Mason Taylor said. “We’re not riding for solely ourselves anymore. It’s still us against the bull, but there’s three other guys on the team that are relying on us now.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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