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May 30, 2015 — A league of their own

Part of the talk surrounding the Final Four of women’s lacrosse was an announcement of a plan to form a semiprofessional women’s lacrosse league in the United States.

The concept, called United Women’s Lacrosse (or UWLX for short), is intended to provide a high-performance playing opportunity for post-collegiate women outside of the U.S. women’s national team.

Bankrolled by STX, the equipment manufacturer, the league is intending to place teams in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic; the states of Massachusetts, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut have been mentioned as possible locations.

The core of each team are STX endorsers such as Alyssa Murray, Kitty Cullen, Julie Gardner, and Liz Hogan. Each of the teams will have a number of these core players around which team rosters of 17 players will be assembled.

Many details have yet to be hashed out before the expected launch in the spring of 2016. Will the teams play U.S. Lacrosse rules, FIL rules, or a hybrid? Will there be a stall rule or shot clock? Will gameplay be allowed to be a bit rougher than the rules currently allow, and if so, will headgear come into play?

Of course, what many people will be asking is about the team names, colors, and locations.

If we go by past experience in these matters, it will be interesting to see whether STX will pick small venues which are built for pro soccer, enormous (albeit vacant) professional football stadiums, or college campuses.

Here’s where I would think the UWLX will locate its teams, given the four states mentioned in the release:

Boston: Nickerson Field held a Final Four one year, but it has been strangely off the radar when it comes to minor sports after the collapse of the WUSA’s Boston Breakers. The NWSL iteration of the team currently plays at Harvard’s Soldiers’ Field Soccer Stadium.

Baltimore: Towson University, which has hosted a number of Final Fours in recent years, is the obvious choice. But there could also be serious consideration given to the lacrosse stadium at Loyola University. I don’t see Johns Hopkins being the choice, given the fact that the MLL team that played there (the Baltimore Bayhawks) didn’t get much of a gate following in the two years they played at Homewood Field.

Philadelphia: Given the fact that only about 8,000 people showed up at PPL Park last weekend, STX may not use the Philadelphia Union’s home ground for this franchise. I think they will wind up at West Chester University.

Hartford: Rentschler Field has been host to a number of events over the years and has great sightlines. It is much more intimate than other stadia in the region. 

At the same time, however, the league would do well to consider at least four other areas:

Syracuse: In the two decades since Syracuse began its women’s program, girls’ and women’s lacrosse in Central New York has practically become a religion. A lot of it is because of a cluster of fine coaches and programs at places like Camillus West Genesee (N.Y.), Baldwinsville (N.Y.), and Syracuse Christian Brothers Academy (N.Y.). As for a home ground, the team could do worse than Coyne Field on the South Campus of Syracuse University, but I wonder if the Onondaga Nation, located in the town of Nedrow, would be willing to host the franchise. There is an enormous box lacrosse facility on the reservation; could a lacrosse-specific stadium be next?

New Jersey: The choices for a UWLX home are multiple. I think Red Bull Arena in Harrison is a nice size to aspire to, but I think that Yurcak Field at Rutgers University would have to be the frontrunner along with Lions Stadium at The College of New Jersey.

Chesapeake/Washington: By 2017, there will be a soccer-specific stadium near the waterfront, and it’s possible that the owners of D.C. United could be looking at multiple secondary tenants. Failing that, it’s also possible that the team could share space in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium with the Chesapeake Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse.

Virginia Beach: Home of one of the first soccer-specific stadiums in the United States, the Sportsplex is now host to Virginia Beach City FC of the fourth-tier National Premier Soccer League. There’s also the matter of two side-by-side turf pitches formerly used by USA Field Hockey as well as the enormous Princess Anne Park across Landstown Road.

What do you think? Would you watch if the gameday experience was enjoyable?

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