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Archive for August 3, 2017

Aug. 3, 2017 — Is there a future for professional women’s lacrosse?

Yesterday afternoon in Lake Placid, N.Y., the Long Island Sound got four goals from Christina Esposito and a hat trick from Halle Majorana in a 16-8 win over the Boston Storm in the championship final of United Women’s Lacrosse.

This year was the second year for the league, which has pioneered the modern game with its 10-player format, imposition of the 90-second possession clock, and removal of the “freeze-tag” rule.

But this time next year, it’s anyone’s guess exactly what the landscape will look like when it comes to the professionalization of the game.

That’s because former UWLX Commissioner Michele DeJuliis has begun putting together an rival organization called the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League, signing a number of members of the World Cup and World Games-winning United States senior women’s national team.

There are a couple of ways this can go. One is that the two leagues will form up their teams, see that a merger is in everyone’s best interest, then go ahead and make one league. That’s what happened in 1998 with pro box lacrosse, with the net gain of two teams and a push into Canada; these days, roughly half of the teams are in Canadian markets.

It’s also possible that the two leagues will operate in their respective orbits, sticking to their core competencies and their visions for the future. If that happens, I actually like the chances of UWLX in a power struggle.

Here’s why: the example of professional women’s soccer in the wake of the 1999 Women’s World Cup win. Though the original WUSA was envisioned as a showcase for the 21 League Founding Players, the league was an incubator for future players for the national team — people like Shannon Boxx and Jamie Pagliarulo and Abby Wambach.

The same goes for the current U.S. pro league, the NWSL. While the league has many of the central core of the 2015 World Cup champions, it has developed players like Lynn Williams and Abby Dahlkemper, who have come from nowhere to being selected for the national team.

In following UWLX this year, I was heartened by the way that the Boston Storm built its team this season. Though the Storm was able to bolster its roster partway through the year through signings of players from the Boston College Final Four team, the core of the Storm were unheralded players who played extremely well together as a team.

And isn’t that what sport is all about?