Most people aren’t aware of how many collegiate club lacrosse leagues are truly out there. While the MCLA and WCLA get most of the attention, there are multiple other leagues that deserve some attention. Here is the current slate of collegiate club lacrosse leagues.
The MCLA was officially founded in summer 2006, however it had essentially existed before as the US Lacrosse Intercollegiate Associates, Men’s Division Intercollegiate Associates. The creation of the official MCLA signified the league becoming its own governing body separate from US Lacrosse. The reasons and exact details can be covered in a separate article, so watch current MCLA President explain it in more detail in our interview with him. What stands out about the MCLA is that it creates a full “virtual varsity” experience, teams get full home and away uniforms with matching helmets and gloves, as well as a lot of other matching gear similar to what NCAA teams get.
There are 9 conferences each with a D1 and D2 league along with three of the conferences having a D3 league. There are around 180 teams across 41 different states and is one of the largest collegiate club lacrosse leagues. Every year there is a D1 and D2 national championship at neutral location. At its inception, the league made a rule that schools with an NCAA team on campus could not have an MCLA team. This rule was changed for the 2021-22 season. Schools are allowed to have multiple teams as long as they play in two different divisions.
Originally under the US Lacrosse Intercollegiate Associates, Women’s Division Intercollegiate Associates (just like the MCLA), the league officially became the WCLA in 2011. Unlike the MCLA, it is organized and ran by US Lacrosse. There are over 200 teams in every region of the contiguous US. There are two divisions and nine conferences with some conferences hosting both D1 and D2 leagues. Schools with NCAA teams have always been able to also have WCLA teams, and so there is a good mix of schools with NCAA teams and schools without. Every year there is a D1 and D2 national championship at a neutral site.
The WCLO is in its inaugural season for the 2022-23 schools year. It is not part of US Lacrosse and will be ran by its own independent governing body similar to the MCLA. So far, a majority of the teams from four different WCLA conferences as well as some other teams have left the WCLA for the WCLO. There will be a national championship in Round Rock, TX in this upcoming May.
The NCLL was founded in 1990 and is recognized by US Lacrosse as a collegiate lacrosse league. The league never had an NCAA team rule like the MCLA, and so it is mostly comprised of schools that have NCAA teams. However, there are plenty of schools in the league without an NCAA team. There are around 130 teams, mainly in the Northeast, but there are teams as far south as Mississippi. There are 11 conferences some with both D1 and D2 leagues, and some with only one or the other. There are national tournaments for both D1 and D2 that compete for the Frederick Cup. Most teams don’t give the “virtual varsity” experience as uniforms are usually pinnies and guys just use their gear from high school. Some teams do however give the full “virtual varsity” experience. Despite this big difference in overall team image, the NCLL does have a lot of good teams and players that can compete with MCLA teams.
Founded in 2004 by the University of Wisconsin, the GLLL Commissioner Hal Rosenberg states that the goal from the start was to reduce the cost of playing and to avoid the “virtual varsity” experience. The goal has always been to give Midwest teams the ability to play a lot of games without travelling far. There are around 40 teams in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Michigan. Schools with NCAA teams can have teams in the league, but almost all of the schools don’t. There are two divisions, each with their own national championship. Just like the NCLL, teams usually have pinnies and mismatched helmets, but again there are a lot of very good players and teams in the league.
Only in its second season, the league is the one of the first to play by Olympic “Sixes” rules. It consists of 7 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) located in Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. All games are played at the University of Maryland, and there is a championship at the end of the season. It is ran by Next Level Sports and Syracuse legend and Next Level Director of Field Sports, Liam Banks, has played a huge role in getting the league started and running. It does have the full “virtual-varsity” experience with full matching uniforms for teams as well as great social media coverage along with quality game streams.
Not entirely sure if this is considered “non-varsity”, but just decided to include it in this article anyways. Founded in 1985, the association currently has 14 teams with all of them being in Ontario excluding one team in Quebec. Some teams are fully funded and work with the school’s athletic department while some are full intercollegiate club teams. A board of 12 people currently operate the league. Players who played in the MLL or other pro-field league are not allowed to play, however players who have played in the NLL or other pro-indoor league are eligible to play as long as they are full-time students at their respective school.