Team USA - FIL World Championships
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ESPN Will Broadcast 2014 FIL World Championships

The headline really says it all. I’m beyond excited for this. ESPN is going to broadcast the FIL World Championships… of lacrosse!

I was planning on attending in person, and still am, but I know that a lot of people can not make the trip. I’m excited that more lacrosse fans will be able to see the international game, and I’m really curious to see how the larger sporting community receives the event. Certain exposure moments can change how a sport is perceived, so is this going to be one of those events?

It’s impossible to say really. A story line could emerge (or not) that will somehow grab the nation’s attention, a totally unexpected upset, or a USA – Iroquois final could do it as well. And you can’t predict that kind of stuff.

What I do know is that if something big does happen in 2014, a larger audience could see it, and that could be great for the sport in terms of exposure. At the very least, die-hard lacrosse fans can watch around 60 games of international lacrosse online and on TV. And that’s definitely not a bad thing!

Here is an excerpt of the Press Release that was sent out by US Lacrosse:

US Lacrosse has announced that ESPN will carry the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse Men’s World Championship across its networks. As many as 40 nations are expected to participate in the event which takes place from July 10-19, 2014, at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver and will be hosted by US Lacrosse.

ESPN will provide unprecedented coverage of the FIL World Championship, showing approximately 60 games across its networks and via ESPN3. The semifinals and championship game will be televised live on ESPNU, and all U.S. team games will be included in the package.

“Our partnership with ESPN will provide a global media platform for the sport of lacrosse that has never existed before,” said Bill Schoonmaker, chief operating officer for US Lacrosse. “They have a tremendous reach and their experience showcasing the sport is unmatched. We could not be more excited.”

“The World Championships will be an incredible opportunity for fans worldwide to see the best lacrosse in the world across ESPN platforms,” said Dan Margulis, ESPN Senior Director, Programming & Acquisitions. “ESPN is committed to lacrosse at the highest levels, and we’re excited to see the lacrosse community come together as the event returns to the U.S.”

The most recent world championship in 2010 from Manchester, England, had just one televised game in the United States. ESPNU aired the gold medal game between the United States and Canada, with the U.S. prevailing 12-10 to win the world championship. The 2014 event marks the first time since 1998 that the U.S. will host the FIL men’s world championship.

Parting Thoughts

My only real question at this point is How are people in Europe/Australia/Asia/South America/Canada/Mexico going to watch the games if they don’t get ESPN? I hope deals can be worked out to provide webcasts to nations that are participating, but don’t get ESPN.

– I love that ESPN is increasing their lacrosse coverage. Again. It’s not a fad, it’s not something they were trying, it’s something they are investing in. And they are pretty savvy, even if you disagree with how they do things. I am interested to see where it goes and if the increased exposure makes a difference on a more worldwide level as well.

– If ESPN can make money off of the FIL World Championships, it could bode well for the Olympics. Did I just say that? Sure did. The IOC has stated they need revenue producing sports, and if lacrosse can deliver in 2014 with the FILs, it can only help the sport’s chances for Olympic inclusion down the line. It’s nice to have an example of success to point to! This is 2020, 2024, or 2028 timeline thinking, but I’m not afraid to look ahead.

It’s Summer programming. This makes it a bit risky as people are off on vacations, etc. and sure, there is baseball and all that other Summer nonsense like Crossfit, but there has to be a chance that the games could get bumped from ESPNU to ESPN2, or (gasp!) ESPN itself. I still think an Iroquois – US game on ESPN would draw insane ratings if it were presented the right way. A nation of 90,000 eligible men vs the entirety of the United States? It’s David vs Goliath, and David actually has a very good shot. That’s TV gold.

Will it push the FIL to make some rule changes? The FIL game is a lot slower than the college game, even before the new college rules. Will the FIL begin to think the game needs to be faster to be more popular? Or will purists come out in droves and embrace no clearing clocks, no shot clocks, and a slower game? It’s something to keep an eye on as the pressures of being “TV friendly” are very real.