ROB CROSS, Daryl Gurney, Mensur Suljovic and Gerwyn Price will make their debut in the Unibet Premier League in 2018 following the confirmation of the field for the 16-week roadshow event.
Cross capped an incredible debut year as a professional by winning the World Championship final at Alexandra Palace on Monday night, and headlines four new faces for the 2018 Unibet Premier League.
World Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney, Champions League of Darts winner Mensur Suljovic and 2017 UK Open finalist Gerwyn Price will also come in to make their Premier League debuts.
Michael van Gerwen will be bidding to win his fourth Premier League title as the defending champion when the 2018 season begins at Dublin's 3Arena on Thursday February 1.
Van Gerwen and Cross are joined as automatic selections from the world's top four ranked players by 2017 Premier League finalist Peter Wright and two-time champion Gary Anderson.
Former champion Raymond van Barneveld joins Gurney, Suljovic and Price amongst the six Wildcard selections, alongside 2012 runner-up Simon Whitlock and former World Youth Champion Michael Smith, who both return to the Premier League field this year.
"It's a very fresh looking Premier League," said PDC Chairman Barry Hearn. "We've got four debutants and a truly global field.
"It's unbelievable - for Rob Cross to go into number three in the world takes away a selection problem.
"The other six were really difficult to get because we had so many contenders, and so many great players who've been in it for a number of years.
"Rob has got focus, he's got ability, he's got bottle. He's a champion, he's a winner and he's going to love the Premier League.
"He has his feet on the ground, he seems a very sensible young man and I think we've got a new superstar, another player who's going to challenge the Michael van Gerwen's, Gary Anderson's and Peter Wright's on a regular basis."
Hearn added: "Mensur is a fans' favourite, he's got a wonderful personality and he's a winner. Look at his consistency over the year - Premier League selections are not just about the World Championship, they're about results over 12 months.
"The World Championship is the most important result but it's not the only criteria. Mensur has been fantastic all season and thoroughly deserves his chance in the Premier League."
The ten players will face each other once over the first nine weeks, before the bottom two players are eliminated following Judgement Night at The SSE Arena in Belfast on Thursday March 29.
The remaining eight players then meet for a second time in the league before the top four players progress to compete in the Play-Offs at The O2 in London on Thursday May 17.
The Unibet Premier League will also visit Germany for the first time in 2018, with the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin playing host to the event on Thursday March 22.
Rotterdam Ahoy will also host a sold-out league night for the third successive year, as well as traversing the UK and Ireland over a four-month period.
The 2018 Unibet Premier League season will be the first since the tournament was introduced in 2005 which will not feature six-time champion Phil Taylor, who retired following the World Championship final.
Former champion James Wade, 2011 finalist Adrian Lewis, Jelle Klaasen and Kim Huybrechts also drop out of the Premier League after competing in 2017, while Hearn also revealed that Dimitri Van den Bergh and Jamie Lewis were considered for selection following their impressive World Championship displays.
"Dimitri Van den Bergh and Jamie Lewis were on the shortlist," added Hearn. "Maybe it's a little early.
"We're going to give them another year, probably use them in a few World Series events to give them a bit more experience and look forward to them making another push with their career and knocking on the door of the Premier League next year."
Fixtures for the 2018 Unibet Premier League will be confirmed in due course.
2018 Unibet Premier League
Competitors (in alphabetical order)
Raymond van Barneveld
Michael van Gerwen
Barry Hearn Video Interview
MUST WATCH | Barry Hearn explains the reasons behind the 2018 Premier League selection pic.twitter.com/1TAPTzBMyo— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) January 1, 2018
2018 Unibet Premier League Dates & Venues
Night One - February 1
Tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie and 0818 719 300 (ROI) or 0844 847 2455 (UK & NI)
Night Two - February 8
Motorpoint Arena Cardiff
Tickets via www.motorpointarenacardiff.co.uk and 029 2022 4488
Night Three - February 15
Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
Tickets via www.eventim.co.uk and 0844 493 6666
Night Four - February 22
Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin
Tickets via PDC Europe and through Affilitix +49 361 644 189 760 and with email support via firstname.lastname@example.org
Night Five - March 1
Westpoint Arena, Exeter
Tickets via www.ticketzone.co.uk and 08444 99 99 55
Night Six - March 8
First Direct Arena, Leeds
Tickets via www.eventim.co.uk and 0844 248 1585
Night Seven - March 15
Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham
Tickets via www.motorpointarenanottingham.com and 0843 373 3000
Night Eight - March 22
The SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Tickets via www.thessehydro.com and 0844 395 4000
Night Nine - March 29
The SSE Arena, Belfast
Tickets via www.ssearenabelfast.com and 028 9073 9074
Tickets priced at £45/£39 and £25.50 including booking fee
Night Ten - April 5
Echo Arena, Liverpool
Tickets via www.echoarena.co.uk and 0844 8000 400
Night 11 - April 12
The FlyDSA Arena, Sheffield
Tickets via www.flydsaarena.co.uk and 0114 256 5656
Night 12 - April 19
Tickets via www.ticketmaster.nl and 0900 300 1250 (Netherlands, 60 cpm) or 0031 88 123 24 25 (Outside Netherlands)
Night 13 - April 26
The Manchester Arena
Tickets via www.eventim.co.uk and 0844 847 8000
Night 14 - May 3
Tickets via www.theticketfactory.com and 0844 33 88 222
Night 15 - May 10
The BHGE Arena, Aberdeen
Tickets via www.ticketmaster.co.uk/AECC and 08444 77 9000
Play-Offs - May 17
The O2, London
Tickets via www.axs.com and 0844 856 0202