(Photo Courtesy: New York Riptide)
Over the past two seasons, the NLL has grown from just nine teams at the end of the 2018 season to 13 teams entering the 2019-20 season. In 2019, the league added the San Diego Seals and Philadelphia Wings. In 2020 the league added the New York Riptide and the Rochester Knighthawks. Additionally, the old Rochester Knighthawks moved to Halifax and rebranded as the Halifax Thunderbirds.
After all that expansion and shuffling it appears that the league will sit at 13 teams for at least two seasons, including this one, since no future expansion team has been announced yet. But with Commissioner Nick Sakewicz’s lofty goal of getting the NLL to around 30 teams someday, another round of expansion is likely coming in the next two or three seasons. That would mean the league could very well have somewhere between 14 and 16 teams at the start of the 2022 season.
But where exactly would the NLL expand next? Well, you better look west.
Recently Las Vegas, Nev. has been all the talk after the San Diego Seals and Colorado Mammoth played a neutral site game there just a few weeks ago. And with that game being a success, we very much could see an NLL team in Las Vegas sooner rather than later. However, NLL fans may want to shift their attention to the Lone Star State for the moment.
On Feb. 2nd, 2020, the NLL filed a trademark for the name Fort Worth Panthers. And while trademarks can certainly end up not meaning anything, if you just read the tea leaves on this one there is some definitely some smoke here.
Dallas, Texas was reportedly in the works back when the league was initially looking to expand early in Sakewicz’s tenure as commissioner. However, Dallas fell through and things got quiet. But over the last six months or so Dallas has started to emerge as a target expansion location once again. Multiple sources have told Lacrosse Bucket over the past few months that Dallas could be a potential location in this next wave of NLL expansion.
If the league does indeed bring a team to Fort Worth that would help balance the league out more. The West Division has five teams, currently, and with the addition of another western team, the current division could possibly be split into two new divisions. Much like what happed this year when New York and Rochester came in and the league split the eastern teams into a North and East division instead of having one massive East division.
So while Dallas, or technically Fort Worth, appears to be a location of great interest for the NLL right now and could very well be the next location for an expansion team, based on what I’m hearing, we’ll have to sit back and see what truly does transpire here.