Your eyes are not deceiving you. This article is a discussion about a taboo subject in the lacrosse world that would cause quite the stir in backroom debates of lacrosse shops across the globe. Sidelines filled with fathers normally debating which foods can be seasoned with Old Bay or where to find the best capicola would be hushed at the mentioning of this topic. Yes; we’re talking a PLL and MLL merger. A corporate cease-fire for the better of lacrosse that we’re here to explain and evaluate. And let’s keep in mind, this idea is focused on one objective – pro lacrosse existing in the future.
P.s. – If this happens in the future, we called it.
The “Premier” Lacrosse League spearheaded by Paul & Mike Rabil, among others, is the “new money” in lacrosse that has shaken the game like coma slide to the collarbone. In a coup d’etat of the creator’s game, the Rabils created a new professional lacrosse league that began play in 2019 and usurped the best talents from the MLL (not named Thompson or Pannell). Their content-driven brand of field lacrosse only has one season under their needlepoint belt, but the PLL displayed their niche ability to innovate the game by being the first North American team-sports league to structure a return to play plan after COVID-19. Including their partnership with NBCSports, the PLL resume is short but stocky, with the hands of a committed and mean-spirited Canadian attackman. Essentially, they’re here to stay if professional field lacrosse is able to stay afloat.
On the opposite side of the outdoor coin, the MLL is floundering in a downward drift of inconsistency. This is a trend that has been going on for a few years with the MLL displaying more of a Lake Placid Masters weekend warrior tournament vibe, than that of a pro league with sponsors and real athletes. And while the attendance numbers for the MLL vs PLL last year were too close to call indicative of a massive preference by the lacrosse community, it’s easy to say that one league is capturing the youth audience that will actually be watching lacrosse in 10 years. The MLL still has history, nostalgia, some great talent, and a purpose for the future; but their current structure is not putting them in a position to win. They move teams like pieces on checkerboards, players have shown disappointment in ownership, and ownership has had issues of being too “close” to things. Being an MLL fan is a taxing experience that differs greatly from the ease of liking a college lacrosse team that you’re fairly confident will exist in two seasons.
But all that can change if the PLL & MLL agree on a merger in the future that would combine the two leagues in the format used in the English Premier League, other soccer leagues, and many other sports leagues around the world. Yes, a relegation merger is what we’re suggesting for the PLL & MLL. And this would finally consolidate professional field lacrosse under one roof that could focus solely on league growth, player development, and giving back to lacrosse.
When: A 2021 PLL & MLL Merger
Yes, it’s soon, but 2021 could be the best time for this merger. If we are still facing a fan-less sports experience in 2021, then there’s no reason to delay a merger; and if we’re returning to sports for the first time next year, it would be historic to come back to a whole new experience that would actually reach more fans than ever before. That right there is a preview of both why and how, so lets try to get to those quickly.
MLL teams are “locked” into cities, but the MLL has shown the fragility of these ties in the past; which leads us to believe taking the MLL on the road might actually be easier to be done than said. And with the PLL already practically back-packing across North America in their current model, a consolidation in 2021 would be the next opportunity to make some magic happen in pro lacrosse that would benefit the fans, players, coaches, and leagues.
How A PLL & MLL Merger Could Happen
The PLL is about to start the PLL Championship Series and crown a new champion for the next season, but this tournament will also rank the seven PLL teams once the season has ended. And while the MLL hasn’t said anything yet; if they proceed with any competition, they should be able to figure out who is in the top four when it comes down to it. Once these top eight teams are revealed, the PLL & MLL merger would set up a system like that of most soccer leagues with multiple levels. There is a top level that’s traditionally called the “Premier” League with other leagues underneath.
The merger would put the top eight teams from the previous MLL and PLL into the new PLL, while the lower three teams from the former PLL and the lower two teams from the former MLL would go into the new MLL. This would make an eight team PLL and five team MLL that could both travel to different cities and reach more fans than ever before.
The end of each season would also then allow for a two team relegation and two team promotion between the new PLL and MLL. This gives every team a chance to prove their value to lacrosse. This also gives even more lacrosse players the chance to play at the pro level by keeping both leagues around but not having competition for viewers. Games would be able to be scheduled at different times for maximum viewership because the two leagues would be working together. The merger would make professional lacrosse, as a whole, more organized for the players, fans, and the sport.
Why Merge the PLL and MLL
Lacrosse players dream of making it to the highest level of lacrosse and playing professionally, while lacrosse fans just want to watch high-quality lacrosse as much as possible. The way that we make as many of both categories happy is by making professional lacrosse more available for fans and players. Accessibility and connectivity are the only ways for lacrosse to succeed, and a merger may be our only hope.
If the two leagues keep competing, professional lacrosse may not be sustainable in the future. There’s only so much attention and money to go around; and when the leagues are forced to compete with one another, there may not be enough butter for everyone’s toast. However, if we’re all on the same team and working together for the better of lacrosse as a whole with the NCAA and youth leagues, imagine where lacrosse could be in the next 10 years.