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Hot Pot of Lax: “Best-of” Playoff Format for Pro Lacrosse

Who Loves Coffee?

We’ve been watching a TON of NHL and NBA lately and it got us thinking, what if the NLL, MLL or LXM Pro used a Best-of playoff series to decide their champion?

Looking around the various sports leagues, this playoff format is already widely used by the NHL, NBA, and MLB as well as many Women’s and College sports. Considering the MLB, NHL, and NBA have all used the best-of playoff format for ages, it’s clearly been tested. Surely you could determine a series that would work best for each league, right?

With nine teams in the NLL, eight teams in the MLL, and two in the LXM Pro, there has to be a fit here somewhere. The extra publicity that comes with the extended format would be great for the sport, helping draw more attention to the playoffs, even if it were just a best-of three or best-of five series.

Let’s breakdown how each league might benefit from adopting this style of playoff format.

NLL – Best-of Five Series

The National Lacrosse League had seven total playoff games this season that lasted all of three weeks. The NLL is the largest and oldest of the three professional lacrosse leagues – it has the most teams and even separate divisions like hockey. Extending out the season a little longer could be a great way to gain more exposure and cultivate a larger fanbase.

It would be great to see a best-of five playoff format in the NLL, for both the Divisional Finals and the Champion’s Cup. Start the playoffs a little earlier, or even the season for that matter, then make the two or three weeks leading up to the NCAA Tournament all about the NLL. This would be a great way to get more eyeballs on the NLL and make May truly all about lacrosse. Because let’s be real, “May Madness” isn’t quite mad enough.

MLL – Best-of Three Series

Out of all the professional leagues in the lacrosse world, I think Major League Lacrosse could benefit most from a “best-of” playoff format. Right now, each MLL team plays all the other teams two times during the regular season, once at home and once away. This year for the playoffs, there will be three total games in just two days.

While I respect and love the “Championship Weekend” idea of having all the action into two days, it would be so much better for the MLL to take full advantage of the air time they could potentially get by playing a best-of series playoff format.

I have one glaring example to give you: game six of the Stanley Cup. Game six of the Stanley Cup had the best overall ratings this year of all six games. There is the obvious reason that it was game six and everyone had just witnessed New Jersey win two straight to bring the series to 3-2. There is also another big reason though… there were no other big games on TV that night. In the NBA, Miami had beaten Boston on Friday and the Finals didn’t start for a couple of days. This allowed every sport enthusiast to tune into game six of the Stanley Cup Finals and watch the Kings make history.

What other sports are competing for the public eye at the end of August? Baseball is an obvious answer, but it isn’t like people actually watch that anymore (just kidding, but seriously…) and the Olympics end a week or two before that. Turn your three game finale into a best-of three series and let the excitement play out. If you still want the grind from the back-to-back games, do the Semifinal series one week and the Championship series the following week. Two best-of three playoff format series would be even better than one. #PlayLax

LXM Pro – Hybrid Best-of Five Series

Considering there are only two teams in the LXM Pro, you might be asking why I even included it in this discussion. I actually think the fact that there are only two teams in the league right now could make things even more exciting for fans and players alike.

This year, the LXM Pro has five events, PERFECT for a best-of five playoff format series. While the LXM Pro is off to a great start this year and I am really excited to watch all the games, I always hear one big criticism: What are they competing for?

If you know anything about the LXM Pro, then you know there is a bigger picture behind the tour. They are taking a different approach to the game by making it as fan-oriented as possible by creating a festival-like environment. They combine the performance of elite-level athletes with live music and unmatched fan interaction to create a one of a kind event.

How do you make this better? Add a trophy! This is where the “hybrid” aspect comes in. Even though the two LXM teams are VERY evenly matched this year, if you have five events scheduled, doing a straight best-of five series wouldn’t work if one of the teams won three times before the fifth game.

Instead, change it up and do some sort of aggregate-type playoff style throughout the five game series. You could do points based off total wins, total goals, total goals allowed and let that decide the champion after five games. Or maybe even venture over to quarter points like the good ol’ CBA! This would allow both teams to always have a chance at winning the LXM Cup, or whatever you want to call it. Furthermore, putting a giant carrot on the end of the stick might further draw out top-notch performances at each event location. It’s tough to take a day off when there’s bragging rights on the line!

What do you think? Would a best-of series format help or hurt the professional lacrosse leagues? Is there another style of playoffs that would work better for each league or should they just stick to their current format?

Sound off in the comments section!

[Lead in image photo credit: Tumblr – Josh Tuper]



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A little more love for LXM Pro 949. The Lacrosse Network released an awesome video taken from Matt Russell’s helmet cam.

Matt Russell was so much fun to watch when he played at Navy. I would LOVE to have him as a keeper, talk about a fearless leader. There is nothing more reassuring on defense then having a confident and loud goalie in cage, directing you and letting you know what is happening at all times.