Four percent growth in “core” lacrosse players over the last three years, according to Sports & Fitness Industry Association research, may have played a role in the emergence of two pro lacrosse leagues in the U.S. But only time will tell if both leagues can not only survive, but also thrive.
Last week, days after Major League Lacrosse (MLL) announced it was restructuring for the upcoming season, Adidas announced a multi-year partnership with the new Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) that is backed by an investment group consisting of The Raine Group, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the Chernin Group, and Blum Capital. The Three Stripes will be the official footwear and apparel brand for the league that will commence inaugural season play June 1. Six teams will compete in a tour-based mode over the summer in 13 U.S. cities with 16 league games slated for broadcast over NBC networks. Adidas intends to create brand activations at local tentpole experiences throughout the season, including the first weekend of play and during the league championship. Additionally, the brand will host two PLL pop-up events at its flagship stores in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, CA.
The MLL, meanwhile, says its decision to restructure, including the re-acquisition of its media rights, folding three franchises and limiting ownership to a single team, was not related to the pending emergence of the PLL. With the 2019 season beginning May 31, league officials have eyes on expanding as early as 2020 in the Sun Belt, California and Pacific Northwest.
U.S. lacrosse participation nearly hit 2.1 million in 2018 with core participation up 3.1 percent to more than 1 million for a second consecutive year, according to the SFIA. At the high school level, more than 5,700 schools across 25 states offered the sport to students during the 2017-18 year where there were more than 210,000 total participants, according to The National Federation of State High School Association. States with the highest boys’ lacrosse participation are New York, California, Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. On the girls’ side, where there are more than 96,000 U.S. high school players, states with the most participation are same as their male counterparts.