Washington

PLL absorbs MLL in merger, unifying pro outdoor lacrosse leagues

Washington

The Premier Lacrosse League has absorbed Major League Lacrosse in a monumental merger for the prospects of outdoor professional lacrosse. Sportico was the first to report the news Wednesday morning

Just over two years after PLL co-founder and player Paul Rabil split from the MLL - the league where he was drafted first overall in 2008 and won two titles and two Most Valuable Player awards - the two are joining forces to create a unified force. 

"The PLL and MLL partnership is a massive step forward for professional lacrosse," Rabil said in a joint statement. "Merging the two organizations and removing some of the challenges that athletes, sponsors and fans faced will undoubtedly advance the game forward. This one’s particularly nostalgic for me and a number of PLL players given that we began our careers and played in championship games with MLL prior to the PLL’s launch. Today and forever we share in that history and continue to build the future of pro lacrosse together.”

As part of the merger, the PLL will expand to an eighth team, rebranding the MLL's Boston Cannons as the Cannons Lacrosse Club. The Cannons, the team who drafted Rabil in the first place, won the 2020 MLL title in a shortened season played over two weeks amid the pandemic in Annapolis, Md. Positive coronavirus tests and an ensuing forfeiture of a semifinal game marred the league's final season.

"This merger only benefits the future of the game, for it combines the history of professional lacrosse with an innovative approach that has already accelerated the game’s growth," MLL Commissioner Sandy Brown said in the statement. 

Rabil, along with his brother Mike, brought over 140 MLL players when the creation of the PLL was announced in September 2018. Now, the PLL will bring over the sport's most prized asset in Lyle Thompson, who was tied down in a long-term contract with the MLL. Thompson, known for his flashy backhanded shots, is one of the most exciting lacrosse players of his generation. He holds the NCAA points record with 400 recorded over four seasons with Albany. 

 

The Cannons LC squad will be entirely selected through an expansion draft in 2021, with details of how players in the MLL will transition into the PLL player pool to be disclosed at a later date. 

The merger puts an end to the 20-year run of the MLL, the first outdoor lacrosse league to allow college stars to ply their trade in the pro ranks. Difficulties keeping expansion teams intact as well as creating enough exposure for its players, Rabil decided to bring the bulk of MLL's stars along with him in creating the PLL after the MLL initially refused to work with him. 

With the financial backing of billionaire Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai, the PLL has benefitted greatly from their media partnership with NBC. While it's unclear just how much the pandemic has forced the MLL's hand, unifying both leagues will allow for a better-coordinated effort to truly showcase the best lacrosse players the sport has to offer. 

Though it's unclear how the PLL plans to work around NBC Sports' coverage of the Tokyo Olympics, and whether the PLL will revert back to its traveling model for the 2021 season in the wake of the pandemic, the merger comes as great news nonetheless.