In 10 or 20 years, I would love to see a 30 for 30 style documentary about the creation of the Premier Lacrosse League and the ripple effect it had on the sport of lacrosse.
The PLL has changed everything for lacrosse, but it undoubtedly had the biggest effect on its competitor Major League Lacrosse. The PLL and MLL seasons might still be more than 4 months away, but there has been no shortage of good and bad news coming out for both leagues early on in 2020.
There is understandably animosity between the PLL and MLL. Paul Rabil was the face of the MLL from the moment he was drafted in 2008 and would leave it as the all time leading scorer. He is now responsible for most of the MLL’s struggles, but also for the renaissance of pro lacrosse. Despite their differences, Rabil and the MLL will eventually have to talk about working together in some way for the sake of pro field lacrosse. For now, the two leagues will continue to operate separately.
The summer of 2020 will look very different from 2019 for both leagues.
The PLL will now have 7 teams playing in the league and will play in new locations across North America. The MLL’s 6 teams will no longer have owners like Chesapeake’s Brendan Kelly or the Bowlen family in Denver. The league is shifting to a single entity ownership model where the league owns all of the teams, which should offer some stability for the time being. Several teams will also relocate to still unannounced locations.
In 2019, both leagues had 6 teams full of talented players with the PLL probably having a slight advantage having the bulk of Team USA. In both leagues, the players were still coming together each weekend with only one practice together before games. They were all still weekend warriors.
Many fans wondered who would win if the PLL Champions, the Whipsnakes, and the MLL Champions, the Chesapeake Bayhawks, played each other and honestly I think it would take a last minute goal or overtime to settle which team would win.
The Chesapeake Bayhawks had the likes of Lyle Thompson, Steele Stanwick, Matt Abbott, Jesse Bernhardt, CJ Constabile, Colin Heacock, and other great players lead them to a championship.
While the Whipsnakes were loaded with players like Matt Rambo, Mike Chanenchuck, Kyle Bernlohr, Joe Nardella, Jake Bernhardt, Tyler Warner, and talent up and down their roster that helped them win the first ever PLL Championship.
In 2020, some of the MLL’s stars will trickle over to the PLL, but the majority of its best players will likely stay with their teams rather then try and fight for the handful of PLL roster spots. Most rookies coming out of college might opt to try and play in the MLL because the chances of getting playing time and getting paid to play lacrosse will be higher. The teams will still be extremely competitive and talented.
The PLL will have really really good teams because of how many of the best players will be competing to earn roster spots. With the 7th team now in the mix and the expansion draft, entry draft for pro players, and collegiate draft their will be a crazy amount of movement on teams until the first weekend of games.
The biggest difference between the two leagues in 2020 will continue to be their media content and live game broadcasting.
The PLL is a media juggernaut. They are constantly posting highlights, player interviews, fan art, and teasing new locations on their social media. They also have a weekly YouTube show and a new series of podcasts. Their deal with NBC to broadcast their games on TV will put them in millions of households.
The MLL is trying to keep up and has smartly been using their 20 year history to post old highlights of the some of the best to ever play lacrosse like the Gait Brothers, Tom Marechek, Greg Cattrano, and of course the Powell brothers. Where they will continue to be held back is that their games are only available to be streamed on ESPN3, Stadium, and on the MLL website. Without being on TV regularly or at all they will struggle to find new fans and have to get creative.
Whatever happens with the MLL and PLL in 2020, I know that I am more encouraged than ever about the future of lacrosse when my friends who have never played before start asking me questions about the PLL because they heard about it on the Pardon My Take podcast or watched it on TV last summer.
This saga of pro field lacrosse will continue to evolve right before lacrosse fans eyes and we can only hope that 2020 will be another stepping stone for a bright future.