Today the PLL announced the eight home markets for their eight lacrosse clubs. After functioning as a touring league for the first five years, the PLL will begin the process of moving towards city based teams this summer. While summer 2024 will still feature touring clubs, home markets signal the beginning of the shift. Teams will play two games in their home market weekend this summer while the league continues to tour from city to city each weekend.
The markets and teams are:
New York Atlas
Denver Outlaws (formerly Chrome Lacrosse Club)
The list features a number of formerly MLL markets. All but Utah were home to an MLL club at one point in the 20 year history of the league, and many are considered to be traditional lacrosse hotbeds. New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston are the expected lacrosse stronghold markets of the northeast. The PLL will, however, have a presence on both coasts. The Redwoods, as their name suggests, will play in California.
Two strong emerging markets are represented in Utah and Carolina. Utah has been growing rapidly, first signaled by the addition of varsity lacrosse from club status at the University of Utah. In a few short years, the team has become an NCAA top 20 caliber program, and made the NCAA tournament last season. Carolina also is routinely turning out extremely bright young talent, sending stars of the future to blue blood DI schools. The Charlotte Hounds were a fervent and passionate fanbase, and the venue of American Legion Memorial Stadium makes Charlotte into a ready made home city.
Finally, the return of arguably the MLL’s strongest brand. Chrome will be no more, becoming the Denver Outlaws. The Outlaws regularly led the MLL in attendance, thanks in part to the fact that their annual July 4th game in conjunction with the World Series of Youth Lacrosse would draw in roughly 30,000 fans. There has been speculation about the return of MLL brands since the PLL/MLL merger, and the strength of the Outlaws fans made them the obvious choice to bring back. Denver is also a favorite of many pro players, who have spokenly glowingly about their time in with the Outlaws.
Two omissions that may be surprising, Minnesota and Connecticut.
Minnesota did very well from an attendance standpoint, and the PLL visited the market in back to back summers. Many fans who expected their to be a midwest presence for the league assumed Minnesota or Columbus would be the spot. Instead, the PLL has no presence in the midwest for now.
Connecticut was a very popular market with PLL players, coaches, and staff. Fans packed the venue for the entire weekend each of the last two summers. Before COVID and the merger, the MLL was set to place a team in CT, which made it feel as though it could be a reality. However, a team in CT along with the rest of these markets would have made for a very northeast heavy league, and clearly the PLL was trying to reach the west coast. Connecticut fans will have to continue to make the trip to New York, Boston, and Philadelphia for their pro lacrosse.
Both Connecticut and Minnesota would be logical choices for neutral site games in the coming seasons.
Also in this announcement is a new conference based format. Atlas, Cannons, Waterdogs, and Whipsnakes will be the Eastern Conference, while Archers, Chaos, Outlaws, and Redwoods will be in the Western Conference. The All Star Game will be a conference-based matchup, and a new playoff structure is to follow.
Given the new conference alignments, one structure seems obvious. PURE SPECULATION STARTS HERE:
Conference winners get a bye, 2nd and 3rd place finishers play each other, and 4th place misses the playoffs. This would mean six teams make the playoffs, not seven. It also would open an opportunity for the last place finishers in each conference, who miss the playoffs, to play each other for the 1st overall draft pick.
The full text of the PLL release on cities is here:
LOS ANGELES – Nov. 14, 2023 – The Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) powered by Ticketmaster has partnered with Whirlpool to welcome its eight teams to home cities, marking the league’s biggest investment in its business and the sport since its inception in 2018. After evaluating existing fan data, market performance, broadcast viewership, and fan voting, the PLL assigned teams to the following cities and regions:
New York Atlas
Denver Outlaws (formerly Chrome Lacrosse Club)
The PLL will also adopt a two-conference structure beginning in the 2024 season. The New York Atlas, Boston Cannons, Philadelphia Waterdogs, and Maryland Whipsnakes will make up the Eastern Conference. The Utah Archers, Carolina Chaos, Denver Outlaws, and California Redwoods will make up the Western Conference, with the PLL All-Star Game to feature a conference-based matchup for the first time, and a new conference playoff structure to be announced soon.
“Our eight lacrosse clubs are coming home,” said Paul Rabil, co-founder and president of the Premier Lacrosse League. “This is the biggest moment in our league’s history since 2018 – when we first launched the PLL. With the Olympic news, we’re now a global game and will continue to invest in bringing the PLL to new markets in the U.S. and around the world. A big thank you to our players, investors, partners and colleagues for your continued commitment, belief, and work ethic in making this possible. Sports fans have professional lacrosse from the world’s best players to look forward to in their hometowns next season.”
In its first five seasons, the PLL operated a touring model, where teams did not have geographic affiliations, and all eight teams played in one market each game weekend. The league will continue to operate a 14-week, tour-based season, with eight of the league’s 10 regular season game weekends to be held in teams’ home markets. Two regular season weekends will be held in other markets, with the All-Star Game, Playoffs and Championship will be held at neutral locations to be announced in 2024.
“When we launched the PLL in 2018, building teams independent of cities helped us get out of the gates fast, grow the game, and operate efficiently with the first team-based tour model in sports. Today, we take our next, and biggest step since we set out on our mission to trailblaze the future of professional sports,” said Mike Rabil, co-founder and CEO of the Premier Lacrosse League. “Connecting our teams to cities and regions will create new connection points and opportunities for our players, fans, investors, and partners as we continue to invest in the growth of the sport from the ground up. The best is yet to come for the PLL and lacrosse.”
The PLL will make new investments in the growth of youth lacrosse in these eight regions as part of the league’s effort to grow the game of lacrosse and build fan affinity in each team’s home location. PLL Youth programming will establish community driven, team-branded programming focused on grassroots participation, access to the sport, and relationship building between PLL teams and lacrosse's next generation of athletes.
When the PLL travels to a team’s home market, that team will host its “homestand weekend” and play two games across two days. The PLL will make new investments team-centered fan experiences and programming through dedicated fan sections at homestand weekends, in market supporter groups, and local philanthropic partnerships through PLL Assists.
The top four teams from the 2023 season will be the first to represent their home markets at the 2024 PLL Championship Series February 14-19 at The St. James near Washington, D.C. The Utah Archers, Boston Cannons, California Redwoods, and Philadelphia Waterdogs will compete in the Olympic Sixes game format, set to return lacrosse to the Olympics at the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Games.
The 2024 PLL schedule will be released in January. To learn more about the Premier Lacrosse League and its teams’ new home locations, visit www.premierlacrosseleague.com.