Premier Lacrosse League vs. National Lacrosse League
By Drake Schaffner
November 29, 2021
Overview: PLL vs. NLL
Premier Lacrosse League (PLL)
The PLL was founded by lacrosse legend and player Paul Rabil in the fall of 2018. Rabil, who played professional lacrosse for over a decade, won a national championship at Johns Hopkins University, a gold medal for Team USA at the World Games in 2018 in Israel, and a MLL Championship with the Boston Cannons in 2011. Rabil created the league to brand the game of lacrosse itself and open the sport to a larger audience due to the recent lack of press that lacrosse was given on the national level.
There are currently eight professional outdoor teams, consisting of the original six teams (Chaos, Archers, Whipsnakes, Redwoods, Chrome, Atlas) and two expansion teams (Waterdogs and Cannons) who entered after a merger with Major League Lacrosse. The league just completed its third season this summer, in which the Chaos Lacrosse Club won the Championship, while the previous two seasons saw the Whipsnakes Lacrosse Club winning it all.
National Lacrosse League (NLL)
The NLL was founded in 1986 with the first game being played in January, 1987. The four original teams were located in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New Jersey.
The NLL’s model is different from that of the Premier Lacrosse League in that it is the only professional indoor lacrosse league in the world. Since 1987, the league has grown to fourteen teams with a Las Vegas expansion team on the way. The league is split in two conferences, the east and the west.
How Each League is Gaining Traction
The PLL hit the ground running with secure investments from Joe Tsai Sports, Brett Jefferson Holdings, The Raine Group, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), Chernin Group, Blum Capital, The Kraft Group, Arctos Sports Partners, and other top investors in the sports industry. The PLL also has a recurring TV deal with the streaming platform Peacock and an exclusive TV-rights deal with NBCUniversal. The PLL has secured sponsorship deals with national companies such as Champion, Vineyard Vines, and Progressive.
The NLL just recently announced a new TV rights deal with ESPN, the most popular destination for sports news. This move should undoubtedly help the NLL increase viewership and revenue streams due to ESPN’s global name. The NLL also recently added several new teams within the past five years: the Albany FireWolves, Halifax Thunderbirds, New York Riptide, Panther City Lacrosse Club, and The Vancouver Warriors. A new expansion team called Las Vegas Lacrosse is set to play in the league’s western conference shortly. These new additions have turned the NLL into a widespread league across the United States and Canada.
How Covid-19 Affected Each League
The PLL was able to have it’s annual 2020 summer season despite the ongoing pandemic. Similar to the NBA’s handling of the virus, the PLL had its athletes staying in a bubble in Utah. Games were able to take place as usual, but fans were not allowed in attendance. This past summer, the 2021 PLL season saw the return of fans in record numbers as the league stretched all across America.
The NLL experienced a much different rupture in the league. The pandemic cut the 2019-20 NLL season short and caused the 2020-21 NLL season to be cancelled. The NLL will return to action on December 3rd, marking the end of an almost two-year pause for the league.
Life as a Professional Lacrosse Player
Given that league revenues are not substantial enough to support its players with liveable salaries, players typically work other jobs outside of lacrosse. Below are a couple insights into how some players manage this dual-life situation.
Q: How are you able to balance playing professional lacrosse while working another job?
A: I focus on playing first, and in my free time I do my training. In the coaching world it is very doable, there is always plenty of time. Always stay in shape and workout to do wall ball and shoot to get the stick sharp. Guys who work in the corporate world grind late in the morning or late at night and fly out on Fridays for their games. - Mikie Schlosser (UM ‘17), Director of ADVNC Lacrosse
A: The job must be a flexible, full time job that allows you to travel on the weekend. You are flying out on the weekend and you are only practicing with your team once a week. - Dylan Maltz (UMD ‘17), Sales Associate at True Temper Sports
The Future of the Leagues
In future years, both leagues will have hopefully gained enough traction to provide sustainable living situations for most players and their families. They are looking to accomplish this through rapid expansions into cities across America and television deals that will provide huge revenue boosts. Until then, as fans, we can continue to support the league by watching televised games and rooting for our local teams.