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Archive for February 10, 2019

Feb. 10, 2019 — An alliance of insurgents

A couple of days ago, it was announced that the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League and the Premier Lacrosse League — with a combined one season of play between them — would be the conduits for supporting the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams’ developmental programs.

The WPLL, a five-team women’s travel league, came about when former U.S. international Michele DeJuliis left United Women’s Lacrosse to start another league, one which would ostensibly lead to growth and marketing opportunities for individual players.

The Premier Lacrosse League, a six-team traveling men’s league, has come about through former Major League Lacrosse all-timer Paul Rabil, who has attracted multimillion-dollar backing after his playing days with MLL ended in 2017.

The WPLL-PLL alliance is being handed the keys to the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP), a multi-stage trial system that will ultimately select teams for high school-aged boys and girls on a nationwide basis. It is a setup which kind of reminds you of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, or the National Futures Tournament in field hockey.

But, with just one season of play between the WPLL and PLL, will the expertise to run a youth national team program exist within the current framework of either sponsoring league? I’m sure the players can come together to create a structure for coaching the players in the NTDP, but I’ll be interested to see if all of that financial backing coming into the PLL will support senior and junior play in the long term. After all, it took just one year for the original Women’s United Soccer Association to burn through $40 million.

There’s one part of the press release that requires unpacking:

With the International Olympic Committee granting provisional recognition to the Federation of International Lacrosse, this partnership lays the groundwork for who could represent the U.S. on the largest stage that the sport has ever seen.

This tells me that U.S. Lacrosse is staking a lot of its capital — both dollars and political capital — on making lacrosse an Olympic sport. I think you’re going to see Olympic rules for any and all games within the PLL-WPLL-NTDP umbrella, which makes things especially interesting on the women’s side, where a lot of players will have to get used to the idea of filling a lineup with nine outfielders instead of 11.

Will it work?

All I know is that U.S. Lacrosse could have chosen to work with two organizations with 21 seasons’ worth of professional playing experience. And didn’t.