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Greg Gurenlian New York Lizards MLL Championship 2015
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MLL Face Off Rules – Big Change Coming!

The 2016 MLL Face Off Rules will be different from the 2015 rules, and while you may think a long post is now warranted to explain all the differences, you’d surprisingly be incorrect. This is because the new rules are really just like some other new rules, which we already know and understand!

2016 MLL Face Off Rules

Basically, the MLL will now follow the same rules for face off procedures that the NCAA currently uses.

YES, you can clamp the ball in the back of your stick on the initial draw, but NO, you can’t run with it in the back of your stick. Get the ball, get it out, and see what happens.

syracuse albany 2016 MLL Face Off Rules
photo credit: Jeff Melnik

No more clamp to run down the field and score with the ball in the back of your stick glory. Those days are over. But the days where a FoGo clamps, pops the ball forward, catches it, and then runs down the field to score are just beginning, so really not a whole lot has changed in terms of what we’ll be seeing on a week to week basis.

Why would the league do this?

It’s a fair question, and the league provides a pretty good answer: they want in-bound college face off guys to have a fair shot at earning a spot, and helping a team. They don’t want guys to be forced to learn a whole new procedure, or adjust their skill set too much, and honestly, this is fair. Face offs are extremely technical, and it’s unrealistic to think college guys can make the change that quickly. If MLL wants to see some more parity in their face offs, helping more good face off guys enter the league is obviously key.

MLL supplies some quotes from league FoGos who like the rule change, but we’ll see if any other MLL players come out against it.

I also like it for another reason, and that is an increased chance for chaos.

Anthony Kelly vs Brendan Folwer face-off MLL All-Star Game 2015 MLL Face Off Rules

Chaos doesn’t mean that a lower-tier face off guy will now beat a better player, but it does mean that another complexity has been added to a draw scenario. By not allowing players to carry the ball in the backs of their sticks, slightly more risk is now there, as ball transfers can get tricky in traffic and at speed, so lots of things can happen. If this results in even 1-2 more weird and exciting plays per game, it was worth it.

Beyond the simple rule change itself, I like this move for another reason, and this is an even bigger, but more general, one.

Major League Lacrosse just adopted a college lacrosse rule. They saw that it was working, didn’t waste any time, and got on board with a new procedure. The league may have different reasons for adopting the rule, but the fact that they didn’t tweak it or call it their own, gives me hope for a brighter future. What brighter future is that?

One where we’re all playing the same game.

I’m still not a huge fan of MLL and college being so different. The shot clock vs stall shot clock, the 2-point line in MLL, the difference in how the games are reffed… all of it leads to a slight disconnect for me, but when I see the two games getting closer, I see the potential in a big way.

Joey Sankey MLL All-Star Game 2015

Will the MLL tighten the reins on head shots and slashes like the NCAA has? Will the NCAA ever add a shot clock or a two-point line? Would the NCAA limit game roster sizes? Would the MLL expand theirs? What about pockets? Should Major League Lacrosse get on trend and put in new pocket rules?

I’m not sold on any of the above changes happening one way or the other, but if lacrosse wants to keep growing in new places, a more consistent set of rules and expectations could really help. Face offs now being the same is a small step in that direction, but will it continue? And who will be the one to take that next step?