The Premier Lacrosse League’s launch in 2019 prompted many associated with the sport to ask whether there was enough support from financial linchpins like sponsors and ticket-buying fans to sustain two outdoor leagues.
The answer, it seems, is no.
To that end, the PLL and Major League Lacrosse, founded about two decades ago, are merging. The move consolidates outdoor lacrosse into a single entity that will operate under the banner of the Premier Lacrosse League, whose financial backers include billionaire Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai, The Raine Group and CAA. The news was first reported Wednesday by Sportico,Variety‘s sibling sports news organization.
Co-founded by lacrosse star Paul Rabil and his brother, Michael, the league’s chief executive, the PLL benefits from a media contract with NBC. The network not only broadcasts the PLL across its platforms but also promotes the league throughout its coverage of other sports properties, including the NFL and NHL.
“Over the past two years the PLL has punched through expectations and garnered commercial viability that the sport has never seen,” said Paul Rabil, a former MLL MVP who now plays for the Atlas, one of seven existing Premier Lacrosse League clubs. “Today, as the PLL embarks on season three, we do so armed with 20 years of MLL history.”
The Rabils declined to disclose financial terms of the agreement.
As part of the tie-up, the PLL will expand to include the MLL’s Boston Cannons as the league’s eighth club. The team will rebrand to Cannons Lacrosse Club, bringing it into alignment with the nomenclature of the PLL’s other teams. The Cannons roster will be determined through an expansion draft held next year.
Additionally, the PLL will retain the rights to the MLL’s other five teams for future expansion considerations.
The merger, Michael Rabil said, is on a smaller scale analogous to previous sports league tie-ups between the NFL and AFL, and the NBA and ABA. By joining forces instead of competing, those leagues were able to thrive. The same, Michael Rabil said, is what he expects for lacrosse.
“Our vision has always been to unify the sport,” he said via telephone. “We know this will bring a better commercial opportunity for the sport, for the league and for the players, and will bring more excitement on the field for the fans.”
The PLL’s sponsors include Ticketmaster, which is part of the league’s official title, Adidas, Gatorade, Vineyard Vines and Capital One.
Next season’s PLL schedule will include games in former MLL markets.