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Archive for June 15, 2017

June 15, 2017 — Two additional competitions and one big conundrum

For the last 19 or so years, this space has advocated for more professional and semiprofessional competitions in the United States for field hockey and lacrosse.

And I’m sure the national governing bodies of both sports have looked askance at their own marketing departments, wondering why cricket, ultimate Frisbee, and rugby have made major inroads in the 500-channel universe in the last two years, and their sports have not.

This week, Spooky Nook Sports, up in Manheim Township, Pa., is kicking off an epic Summer of Hockey. It has already started with the Young Women’s National Championship. Afterwards, there are three National Futures tournaments, the National Club Championships, and, in August, the Pan American Cups for both men and women.

But tucked in between tournaments, scheduled between July 28-30, is the inaugural United States Field Hockey League Nationals.

While the tournament is an invitational this year, it’s presumably a way to get the different leagues around the country more organized to be able to send a league champion to The Nook each summer in search of a national championship outside of the usual confines of the National Festival.

While the USFHL is bare-bones in detail and structure, it has a strong set of bylaws. Filling in the gaps, in terms of finance and infrastucture, is in the future.

Women’s lacrosse, on the professional side, appears to be developing not just a gap, but possibly a chasm. Currently, there are four teams in United Women’s Lacrosse (UWLX), and the teams are in their second season with games scheduled for this weekend in suburban Philadelphia and suburban Baltimore.

This being a World Cup year, none of the top 18 U.S. players are in the league.

But it seems, one by one, a number of these elite players are being lured to a second entity for the 2018 season. Michele DeJuliis, the former commissioner of UWLX, is starting a second circuit, the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League (WPLL).

The WPLL is being seen as a “by players, for players” league which will include not only a four-team league, but will include a developmental component.

That developmental component could be like the current U.S. soccer system, where MLS and WPSL teams have youth rosters in affiliated leagues. It could be like Japanese professional baseball, whose teams carry their Class AAA rosters with them on road trips and play in the afternoon for schools and camps, leaving the top players for evening contests.

Thus far, the likes of Taylor Cummings, Dana Dobbie, Katie Schwartzman, Alice Mercer, Kayla Treanor, and Alex Aust have declared for the WPLL draft, which could lead to a bidding war between two leagues for the services of some players.

Is this a healthy thing for the nascent world of pro women’s lacrosse?

Stay tuned.