On Wednesday, the PLL and MLL announced their immediate merger.
We don’t know a ton, but we do know some things: the Boston Cannons will join the PLL as the rebranded Cannons Lacrosse Club, with an expansion draft determining its roster, and the PLL will keep the rights to all past MLL teams for possible expansion down the road.
But that’s about it, as of now. Surely, more details will come as this story develops, but for now, the lacrosse world is left wondering what the fallout will be of two professional field leagues combining into one.
What the PLL & MLL Merger Could Mean
Lots of People are Out of Work
We know the PLL intends to add the Cannons to its ranks, but their roster will be reformed in an expansion draft. That means current Boston Cannons player are without jobs, as are the rest of the players, coaches and staff who called the MLL home.
Some of them will find refuge within the PLL. Many of them won’t. There were 13 professional field lacrosse teams on Tuesday – there are now eight on Wednesday. That’s five teams of employees gone.
Remember, too, that the PLL utilizes a different team-building model than the MLL. Assuming that doesn’t change, that renders six front offices from the MLL obsolete. There go more jobs.
The sport of lacrosse could massively benefit from one major centralized field league, but there are undoubtedly plenty of individuals who are struggling today.
Will the PLL Maintain Its Tour Model?
The PLL is adding the now-former MLL markets to its city tour list. But how long will it stick with this model?
When the MLL existed, it made sense for the PLL to run its show differently. Now that the MLL is out of the way, will the PLL aim for a more traditional city-based model that all other major North American professional sports leagues use? Perhaps a hybrid model is something the league considers? Maybe we see no changes at all to the format, at least for the foreseeable future.
It remains unclear as to how this will affect the way the PLL operates its competition, if at all, but this is one of the biggest developments to follow. As of right now, there are no professional field lacrosse teams based in any American city.
Summer Lax Just Got More Competitive
There are now fewer opportunities to play professional field lacrosse, but that doesn’t mean those who are left out will stop picking up a stick.
Summer tournaments like Vail, Placid, Ocean City and others are likely to add a good crop of high-end talent to their ranks. The former pros who now can’t make a roster will still need a way to get their lax fix, and with the MLL gone, it’s logical to assume many will look to these events as their outlets. If you’re a player in these tournaments, you might be more likely to share a field with a professional-caliber player, which is both exciting and terrifying depending on who you are. If you’re a fan who lives near one of these events, you may have just lucked into some really awesome lacrosse happening down the road.
Does This Mean Anything for the NLL?
While the NLL is in the box lacrosse realm, lacrosse is still lacrosse. Plenty of athletes have played in the NLL and PLL or MLL over the years, and the affects the leagues have had on one another is impossible to ignore.
As mentioned, there are now lots of lacrosse players, coaches and staffers out of work. The amount of opportunities in professional field lacrosse subtracted by almost half. Could it be possible that we’ll see less crossover from box and field pros now? Could players who would have otherwise stuck to the field game opt to try their hand at the indoor version of lacrosse because that’s where an opportunity is?
Also, there is now one fewer cook in the kitchen. With the NLL, PLL and MLL all in operation, it made it much harder for players to cross over between field and box. Now, with PLL and MLL merger, perhaps the PLL and NLL can come together to create an environment where the best players in the world get to compete on the biggest box and field stages and the rosters can be even more loaded than they already are now.
It’s unclear how this will affect the NLL and box lacrosse, but it’s hard to imagine that it won’t at all.
NLL commissioner Nick Sakiewicz released a statement on the merger between the PLL and MLL.
“A united front for outdoor lacrosse makes great sense for our sport, and as we have said consistently from the beginning , we can all grow best by working together and we will continue to maintain and expand our relationships across the global lacrosse ecosystem,” he said. “We congratulate our colleagues at the PLL and the MLL on their announcement today and with them, we are looking forward to a healthy and prosperous 2021 new year, with additional great news for the box game coming soon as well.”
What Does One Field League Mean for the Sport?
This is the biggest question of all and one that is likely on the forefront of most fans around the world. Prior to this merger, field lacrosse was split into two major leagues competing against one another for talent, time and attention. That competition is now gone. Is that a good thing?
It has been for other sports in similar situations in the past. It would be pretty hard to argue that the NBA-ABA merger wasn’t a boon for basketball. Same for the impact the AFL-NFL merger had on football and the NHL-WHA merger’s affect on hockey.
So, it would appear that this is a positive for the sport of lacrosse down the road. All field lacrosse attention, resources and talent can be centralized in one place, making it much easier to display the game and the best it has to offer to potential fans.
But we can’t know that that’s how this will go. Not yet, anyway. Perhaps in 20 years, it will be obvious that this day was a massive success for the sport of lacrosse. It could also not work out. There’s no way for us to know at this point. Just watch and find out.