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From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.


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December: 30 and Counting
December 2023

In his wildest dreams, I doubt Barry Hearn ever thought his concept of staging and televising a Europe vs U.S.A. pool tournament in the United Kingdom — hardly a bastion of American pool — would celebrate a 30th anniversary. Hollywood marriages have a better chance of lasting 30 years than an international pool competition.

But here we are, 30 years later on the eve of the latest installment of pool’s competitive Main Event. Few remember — or are even aware — that the first Mosconi Cup was played in a bowling center (or “centre”, as the Brits instist on spelling) not far from Hearn’s home-turned-office in Romford, England. The “set” featured a 10-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty, stars-and-stripes waistcoats on the Yanks, and a lineup of trivia question answers, like Mike Gulyassy, Paul Gerni, Lou Butera and Vivian Villarreal.

The Mosconi Cup’s transformation from kitschy novelty to appointment viewing and a 12-month interest cycle has certainly taken time, but it has seen steady progress since the get-go. What spurred that continual growth? The event itself, of course, and the players that participated.

Here is my list of the top players and editions that helped shape the annual pool extravaganza known as the Mosconi Cup.

Top Five Mosconi Cup Players

5 — Jayson Shaw: As long as the Mosconi Cup is based in the U.K., Jayson Shaw will be relevant. Built for the high-profile, high-pressure stage, Shaw is the top draw for European fans. A born antagonist, Shaw’s brashness is always headline-grabbing. And his firepower at the table keeps fans on the edges of their seats.

4 — Ralf Souquet: The Kaiser still had hair when he started playing for Team Europe. And over 17 trips into the Mosconi Cup arena, Souquet always fought to the final ball. Souquet saw it all during his Mosconi Cup career, withstanding all the beatdowns of the 1990s and early 2000s, but persevering and thankfully enjoying the feeling of turning the tables on the Americans through the 2000s and early 2010s.

3 — Johnny Archer: Archer was to Team USA in the 90’s and 2000’s what Sky Woodward is today… the American player no one wanted to face. He was the glue for Team USA and its top player for most of the 17 years he competed. Archer’s winning percentage in matches (55%) is still the highest ever by a U.S. player.

2 — Steve Davis: The six-time World Snooker Champion was critical to Hearn’s plan for building the Mosconi Cup. Landing Davis as his first player client helped launch Hearn’s career as a promoter and he used “The Nugget’s” popularity in the U.K. to draw eyeballs to television screens in the early years. A perfectionist by nature, Davis, only a few years removed from the pro snooker tour, took on his role as more than just window dressing. A phenomenal cueist, Davis worked on his game and became a solid contributor for Team Europe. And he did, indeed, draw fans to the event.

1 — Earl Strickland: No player had a bigger impact on the growth of the Mosconi Cup — on both sides of the pond — than the mercurial “Pearl.” For the growing legions of European pool fans, he was the black hat the event needed to bring passion to the proceedings. He fought the fans, he fought his opponents and he fought with his teammates. And all the while, he drilled object balls into pockets with jaw-dropping style and accuracy. The late, great commentator Sid Waddell was at his hyperbolic best when Strickland was at the table.

Top Five Mosconi Cups

5 — 2006: Notable for all the wrong reasons. Welcome to the first, only and guaranteed LAST tie in the history of the Mosconi Cup. Perhaps too caught up in his love of golf’s Ryder Cup, Hearn decided to schedule an even number of matches (24 total). A senseless idea became a deflating reality when Team Europe squandered a 12-10 lead, with American Corey Deuel defeating Spain’s David Alcaide, 5-2, to end the proceedings in a 12-12 tie, with Team USA “retaining” the Cup.

4 — 2002: The year Team Europe saved the Mosconi Cup. Having lost seven of the first eight years, including a 12-1 demolition in 2001, the Euros won, 12-9. Earl Strickland rattled a backwards cut into the top corner pocket in a hill-hill match against snooker hero Steve Davis in musty, old York Hall in East London, and the snooker hero rolled in the final three balls, setting off a wild celebration.

3 — 2003: Team Europe’s miracle victory in 2002 served dual purposes. First, it gave Hearn hope that the event could be competitive in the years to come. Second, it convinced him that an actual rivalry was growing, and it was time to bring the Cup to the U.S., which was finally starting to catch onto the phenomenon. Remember, the Cup was never available for viewing in the U.S. until the 2010s. This was America’s first real glimpse of the Mosconi Cup.

2 — 2019: While 2018 is hailed as a critical moment in Mosconi Cup history, with Team USA ending an eight-year Team Europe run, the 2019 event spurred American fans to turn out in droves in Las Vegas, finally matching Europe-staged Cup crowds in size and enthusiasm. They were rewarded with a scintillating 11-8 win.

1 — Next Year: In the end, the best Mosconi Cup will always be Next Year!

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