Athletes Unlimited’s women’s pro lacrosse league is coming to Maryland

“It will be like we’re back in middle school picking teams to kickball,” said defenseman Meg Douty, one of four former Maryland Outsiders and 13 members of the US national team that supports the Athletes Unlimited league to have. “You have to do your homework with the players in the league and find out who to pick first.”

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Jon Patricof co-founded Athletes Unlimited and Jonathan Soros after stepping down as president of New York City FC of Major League Soccer after the 2018 season. Patricof saw an untapped demand for women’s sports, especially on a professional level. He also recognized the changing nature of sports fandom, with younger fans’ roots being determined more by individuals than by teams or leagues.

“We live in a time in which the fans really follow individual athletes and deal with them,” said Patricof. “We wanted to create a model where we could put the players first in what happens on and off the field.”

Athletes Unlimited made their debut with a five-week softball league held in Rosemont, Illinois last August. The second venture, an indoor volleyball league in Dallas, closed in March. In no season has a game been canceled or postponed, which is no mean feat during the coronavirus pandemic. This summer’s lacrosse league could be Athletes Unlimited’s first with limited fan attendance.

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With a significantly shorter season than most professional leagues and an individual scoring system, the single-city Athletes Unlimited model was designed to give fans an experience where every game – and every moment during a game – matters.

“With our point system, there are points on the line in every game,” said Patricof.

That doesn’t mean that teamwork is no longer important.

“To be successful, your team has to help you,” said Taylor Cummings, midfielder for Athletes Unlimited, a three-time Maryland Tewaaraton Trophy winner who coaches girls’ lacrosse and teaches at McDonogh when not training for the national team. “I think the teams that work together and have the best chemistry will be the ones who see their players at the top of the leaderboard all the time.”

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Athletes Unlimited players receive accommodation, most meals, transportation, childcare, pregnancy and parental leave, and access to top-quality coaches. You will receive a minimum pay of $ 10,000 for the season. You will receive cash bonuses for running by quarters and winning games, plus additional bonuses based on where you land on the scoreboard.

Douty, who owns her own club and training program in New Jersey, All Lax All Day, was initially a little skeptical of the model but is looking forward to getting back on the line. The pandemic has effectively excluded the national team from competition since 2019, and the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League, founded in 2018, was the last women’s lacrosse league to be successful last year.

“You’re blasting women’s sports and doing it right,” Douty said of Athletes Unlimited. “They’ll take women’s lacrosse to another level.”

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Cummings, Douty’s former teammate from Maryland, is thrilled to be able to play near his home.

“To not only have my family at games, but also to have young girls at our games and see the best of the best compete in such a hotbed for lacrosse. I think it’s great for our sport, I think.” , it’s great for the league. ” She said.

Cummings and Patricof both believe that the main thing preventing professional women’s lacrosse from gaining a foothold is opportunity for fan awareness and engagement. The league has not yet released the details of its television deal, but all games will be streamed on cable television or online. The 2020 softball season was featured by CBS Sports Network and ESPN.

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Patricof said the league has invested heavily in its digital and social teams, which will be tasked with telling the athletes’ stories. The shows will feature many of the bells and whistles viewers are used to in men’s leagues, including microphone athletes and behind-the-scenes recording. DraftKings last year offered a free daily fantasy game tied to the softball league.

Without an owner or coach, a Players Executive Committee meets regularly with Athletes Unlimited employees to make decisions about how the league is run. The Athletes Unlimited Advisory Board consists of Abby Wambach, Karch Kiraly, Jessica Mendoza and Kevin Durant. In addition to participating in league winnings for up to 20 years, players can choose to play for a specific charitable cause. Athletes Unlimited promises to donate an amount equal to 50 percent of their point bonus for this purpose.

Along with all of the perks and rule changes that set Athletes Unlimited apart from other professional leagues, including the fantasy sports scoring system, Patricof said the league’s biggest draw is her talent.

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“We have the best lacrosse players in the world,” he said. “Nothing is as important as that.… The players help design and run every element of the league and recruit their teammates. At the end of the day you get a fantastic product as the athletes are fully bought in across the board. “