The National Lacrosse League announces details for the 2019-20 season, which include divisional realignment, playoff format and schedule type after the addition of two expansion teams and new market Halifax. The league will feature 13 teams in the upcoming season after fielding 11 last year.
To accommodate the addition of expansion teams, the New York Riptide, Rochester Knighthawks and new market Halifax Thunderbirds, as well as maintaining an eye towards continued expansion, the NLL will shift to a three-division format in 2019-20.
“The league has had unprecedented expansion over the last three years. With two more teams coming in this year along with a new market in Halifax, we felt the need to reexamine conference alignments, schedule and playoff formats to prepare for future expansion. We also wanted to create exciting rivalries for the fans, the best travel scenarios for teams and players and competitive match-ups for our 13 franchises,” said NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz. “I want to recognize the great collaborative work between the Competition Committee, Board of Governors and League office who worked very diligently in making these challenging decisions.”
The five teams that comprised the West Division in 2018-19 will remain as the West Division this season. The six franchises that made up the East Division in 2018-19, in addition to the two new expansion teams and new market team Halifax will be distributed among the East Division and the newly formed North Division. The new division realignment is as follows:
West North East
Calgary Roughnecks Buffalo Bandits Georgia Swarm
Colorado Mammoth Halifax Thunderbirds New England Black Wolves
San Diego Seals Rochester Knighthawks New York Riptide
Saskatchewan Rush Toronto Rock Philadelphia Wings
The NLL has adopted a regular season schedule format in which each franchise will face the other 12 teams at least once during the 18-game season.
Each team in the West Division will play two division opponents twice and the other two division rivals three times, while facing each team in the North and East Divisions once. Teams located in the North and East Divisions will play the other three teams in its division three times, while facing non-divisional opponents once. The schedule format was approved by the league’s Board of Governors during the offseason.
Eight teams will once again qualify for the playoffs. The three division winners will now automatically receive the top three seeds in the playoffs, based on their records and tiebreakers. The three second-place teams in each of the three divisions will receive the fourth through sixth seeds in the order of their records and tiebreakers. The seventh and eighth “wild card” seeds will be awarded to the next two best records from any division.
The first two rounds of the playoffs will remain single-elimination and teams will not be re-seeded after the opening round. The championship round will remain as a best-of-three series. The highest remaining seed will host Game 1 and, if necessary, Game 3.