(Photo courtesy of PLL)
The PLL has announced that they will be expanding from six lacrosse clubs to seven for the 2020 season, which is slated to being on June 1st just like their inaugural year in 2019.
PLL Expansion is great for the league and the sport, but with expansion comes a whole host of details that need to be hammered out and carefully examined for expansion to go as smoothly as possible. So, here are some of the most pressing questions surrounding PLL expansion.
The league has stated that there will be an expansion draft in February where the new expansion team will be able to draft players off of the rosters if the current six original teams. This method makes the most sense for any league that is expanding and has been proven to work in major leagues like the NHL and has worked well in the sport of lacrosse with the NLL as they are currently in a wave of expansion of their own.
However, having an expansion draft means that each team will get to protect a number of players- which looks to be 10- and leave the rest unprotected and exposed to the draft. The biggest question here is how many players can each team lose during the expansion draft and how will teams protect players?
In field lacrosse, there are only ten players on the field for each team at once (nine field players and one goalie). While it makes logical sense for teams to be allowed to protect just ten players: three midfielders, three attackmen, three defensemen, and one goalie. That then leaves the faceoff, SSDM, and LSM positions on an island, essentially.
Only protecting ten players creates a dilemma for many teams in the league. Which “specialist” do you protect over a close defenseman, midfielder, or attackman? This decision will be particularly difficult for teams that made the championship bracket and had multiple high-caliber “specialist” players or multiple all-stars on their roster.
Overall, when the announcement comes about how many players each team can protect, all the fine details need to be set straight. The only one part about the expansion draft that is predictable right now is that each team will likely only get to protect one goalie.
As a traveling league that makes stops at multiple cities across the continent, having an even number of teams is perfect. Each team plays one game a weekend. However, with an odd number of teams comes a scheduling conflict.
Most likely, the league will have one team play a double-header each weekend. That could mean playing a game on Friday and Sunday, Friday and Saturday, or Saturday and Sunday. Either way, one team will have an advantage in terms of rest so no matter what way the PLL decides to go in terms of double-headers, there is no way to make things completely equal.
Another scheduling option, although less likely, would be to have one team have a bye week each week of the season. However, business-wise, it is very dumb. Many fans may be turned off by a decision like that, especially when the league is coming to their city or close to them but their favorite team is not playing that weekend.
When you look at the PLL playoff system, it appears to have been made for more than six teams. Having a first-overall pick bracket and championship bracket, and both essentially being double elimination made last season’s playoffs drag just a bit, even if it is fun and innovative or smarter thinking on the business side to do things that way.
Now with seven teams, will the playoffs be expanded to have a play-in game for the championship bracket or will the worst team in the league have to play in a play-in game with the second-worst team in the first overall pick bracket? Also, the worst team in the league could automatically go to the first overall pick final game.
With seven teams, the playoffs look a little differently, and as mentioned, there are multiple ways that the league can go about it.