January 2020 edition of US Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Head to USLacrosse.org to subscribe."> 20/20 Vision: Bold Predictions for the Next 20 Years of Lacrosse | USA Lacrosse Magazine


20/20 Vision: Bold Predictions for the Next 20 Years of Lacrosse

This story appears in the January 2020 edition of US Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Head to USLacrosse.org to subscribe.

Twenty years ago, the lacrosse world was a mere shell of what it looks like now.

Either Princeton, Syracuse or Virginia won every men’s national championship from 1992-2004, an indicator of how the power rested within an intimate group of the sport’s elite. The women’s game has taken tremendous strides, adding boundaries to the playing field and eyewear to the players, both necessary steps in growing and advancing the sport.

New powerhouse programs have blossomed in both the men’s and women’s games, joining the fray as title contenders on what seems like an annual basis. The turn of the millennium now seems like ages ago, as the game has placed itself upon the doorstep of Olympic inclusion in 2028. This thanks in large part to the growth to more regions and programs, as well as the growing use of social media for athletes to brand themselves.

In another 20 years, we could be looking back and saying that the 2000s and 2010s were periods focused on laying the foundation for the game’s continued ascension. Will small-sided lacrosse really take off? Will Power Five schools add the sport for both men and women? Will John Grant Jr. still be playing?

With help from our followers on social media (@USLacrosseMag), we’ve assessed the plausibility of these 20 predictions for the next 20 years.

See you in 2040.

Sunday Night Lacrosse Draws 1 Million Viewers on a Major Network

The Premier Lacrosse League launched with a vision of changing the lacrosse broadcast as we know it.

The league, which brokered a broadcasting deal with NBC Sports, featured innovations like on-field interviews and a SkyCam to enhance the broadcast for fans around the country. Broadcasts reached up to 412,000 viewers. On the ESPN networks, lacrosse has been a mainstay throughout the past decade. College lacrosse has appeared on ESPNU and ESPN2, and the network is enhancing its broadcast with new camera angles and a SkyCam itself.

One wonders what lacrosse might look like on screens in 2040. John Miller, NBC Sports president of sports programming, suggested that if the network expanded its lacrosse coverage, it would feature international play.

“The next avenue for us after the PLL is going to be what can we do to help with the Olympic movement,” Miller said last January. “Whether that’s putting together great international friendlies and really trying to help develop a good international product that the IOC accepts, that’s where we can help the most.”

ESPN will continue to cover college lacrosse with the star trio of Paul Carcaterra, Anish Shroff and Quint Kessenich. The newly founded ACC Network also promises to give fans more ways to watch their favorite teams. John Vassallo, a senior coordinating producer for ESPN, said the network is focused on innovations designed for an up-close view of each game.

“In-goal robotic cameras, using our pylon technology that we use on college football in the substitution box, cameras placed on the rear of the goal that allow for a 240-degree view behind and to the sides of the cage,” Vassallo said, hinting at future changes. “Anything that might bring the view closer and lower to the field of play.”

Coverage of lacrosse will continue to expand online and on TV. It will become appointment viewing, with games that reach more than a million viewers.

Plausibility: 3/5

We’ll make plenty of progress, just maybe not that much progress.

In another 20 years, we could be looking back and saying that the 2000s and 2010s were periods focused on laying the foundation for the game’s continued ascension.

No Body Checking in Youth Lacrosse

With player safety as the chief concern, there’s already a movement to reduce collisions in the sport. Raising the minimum age for body checking would also encourage youth players and coaches to focus more on fundamentals. By high school, athletes would theoretically be polished players before learning how to safely check. There’s a reason flag football is now the fastest-growing team sport at the youth level.

Plausibility: 3/5

Probably not something most traditionalists will get behind.

Which Version of Lacrosse You Play Won't Be Determined By Gender

Some see unifying the varying disciplines of lacrosse as the path toward global growth. There’s also a broader movement to allow children to choose sports regardless of gender or gender identity. Introductory versions of the sport might be unified, but there will remain distinctive men’s and women’s versions.

Plausibility: 1/5

Me with small pockets or women as long-stick midfielders? Sounds intriguing.

2-Point Line and Shot Clock at All Levels

Major League Lacrosse brought the 2-point line to pro lacrosse, and the 60-second shot clock came along with it. Since, we’ve seen a shot clock (of varying lengths) in women’s college lacrosse (90 seconds), men’s college lacrosse (80 seconds), the Premier Lacrosse League (52 seconds) and the National Lacrosse League (30 seconds). The PLL also has the 2-point line, with the Chaos’ “Bomb Squad” of Jarrod Neumann, Matt Rees and Jake Froccaro taking advantage of the extra point awarded for draining a longball. Could we see this style across all age groups?

Plausibility: 1/5

It’s hard to imagine youth coaches trying to teach fundamentals loving this.

An EA Sports Lacrosse Video Game Hits Bigs

Picture this. It’s 2040. The next big lacrosse star has his or her portrait on the cover of “Creator’s Game.” You download the popular video game on to your PlayStation 13 or Xbox 1080, fire up an online match against a friend and hear Paul Carcaterra’s voice doing play-by-play. Rivaling the popularity of its Madden NFL line of games, EA Sports has created another best-seller.

Plausibility: 3/5

So you can rage-quit a different sports game.

A Division I School that Currently Doesn't Play Lacrosse Will Make it to Championship Weekend

With the number of Division I teams across men’s and women’s lacrosse growing each spring, it’s only a matter of time before a new program takes the sport by storm and makes a case for Memorial Day weekend. It isn’t impossible to see new teams find early success. In women’s lacrosse, Florida entered the NCAA landscape in 2010 and worked through a rough first season. The Gators have either finished first or tied for first in the American Lacrosse Conference, Big East or American Athletic Conference every year since and have achieved top-10 national rankings. Building a new program isn’t easy, but it’s definitely not impossible.

Plausibility: 5/5

As the game grows, this becomes more and more likely.

SoCal is the Undisputed Hotbed of the Sports
By Justin Feil​

Southern California is known for sun and fun, and both will make it the hottest spot for lacrosse by 2040.

The Premier Lacrosse League positioned its headquarters in Los Angeles last year, and the league’s success naturally brings attention to the area. Following suit, other pro leagues could migrate West.

“There is definitely a local impact,” said Mick Davis, director of PLL Academy and head of PLL ticketing. “They’re here and able to support local programs at a different level, and that connective tissue is going to grow.”

Two hours away, San Diego Seals president Steve Govett is looking at an explosion of interest like he witnessed while starting up the Colorado Mammoth in 2003. Seals merchandise has jumped off shelves and corporate sponsorship is doubling this year.

“A lot of people are super excited about it,” Govett said. “We’ve created a buzz for a sport that a lot of people don’t know.”

Lacrosse was the fastest growing high school sport in California in 2017, and the 567-member school CIF-Southern Section will play its first high school boys and girls state championships this May.

Area interest will only heighten when L.A. hosts the 2028 Summer Olympics, and World Lacrosse is pushing to add lacrosse as a host sport. SoCal could get an earlier boost if the 2022 World Lacrosse Men’s World Championships relocate to Los Angeles, as rumored in November.

Plausibility: 2/5

Lacrosse goes Hollywood.

As Officials Adapt, Wearable Tech Becomes a Staple

You know how spectators like to complain to officials, screaming that they need glasses because they “can’t see” what’s going on in the game? Well, maybe there’s a solution. Think Google Glass, but for lacrosse. This wearable tech could break down the game in real time, alerting officials of infractions and giving officials  an advanced look at the game happening in front of them. As officials adapt and progress with an evolving game, this could be an innovative idea. But maybe not a feasible one.

Plausibility: 2/5

There’s still a love for the human element ... even with some disagreements from fans.

You'll Be Playing Fantasy Lacrosse on a Major Fantasy App

Fantasy football takes over offices from September through January. Could fantasy lacrosse take over offices during the summer months? Just imagine the fun fantasy managers would have naming their teams. We expect team names like Fields of Gold, Gutty’s Gang and Keepin’ it McCool.

Plausibility: 3/5

With the No. 1 overall pick, Rambo’s Rampagers select ...

The End of Draws and Faceoffs as we Know Them

Could there be a scenario in which draws and faceoffs are essentially eliminated from lacrosse? Probably not. The operative words here are “as we know them.”

As the small-sided iteration of the game continues to grow with Olympic implications, World Lacrosse has looked to reduce the number of draws to speed up the game. Taylor Cummings understands the reasoning in that sense, but she never wants to see the draw truly eliminated.

“I understand, especially when we’re getting into the small-sided stuff, they want to push the pace,” she said. “And part of the beauty of lacrosse is how fast it is. By eliminating draws between every goal, it pushes the pace and makes it faster. I still am very much pro-draw when it comes to the actual collegiate game, World Cup game.”

Count Sammy Jo Tracy among the draw’s supporter, too.

“I believe it’s a beautiful part of our game,” she said. “I believe it shows advanced skill.”

Cummings said the draw allows players to specialize and impact games in such a way that they perhaps couldn’t otherwise.

Trevor Baptiste, considered by many as the best faceoff man in lacrosse history, is an advocate of his specialty, but knows there are changes on the horizon that could affect how his craft is viewed.

“I would tell the coaches, ‘Let the faceoff guys play,’ but the faceoff guys have to be hungry to do other things except face off,” he said. “So you’re going to go after a guy and want the guy on your team that maybe instead of winning 70 percent of faceoffs, you’ll take a 55-percent guy who can play both sides.”

The faceoff was eliminated from college lacrosse in 1979, but the move was met with harsh criticism. That could still be the case if it were eliminated today, leaving the likelihood slim. However, changes could be on the way.

“Maybe a ball drop,” Baptiste suggested. “I don’t know.”

Plausibility: 4/5

We're not saying they’ll entirely disappear. But some changes? Sure.

The NCAA Tournament Expands to 64 Teams and Bracket Pools Take Off

The Division I men’s tournament featured 17 teams last season. The women’s tournament featured 28 teams. Could either (or both) expand to 64? As more universities add lacrosse, the expansion of the tournament would seem to be a foregone conclusion. Of course, 64 teams is an ambitious goal, but imagine the craze of filling out a tournament bracket. May Madness can truly take off.

Plausibility: 1/5

With currently just 73 men’s Division I teams, 64 seems like a stretch.

All Power Five Conferences Will Have Lacrosse

The Pac-12 already sponsors women’s lacrosse, with USC, Stanford and Colorado achieving varying levels of success. It’s only a matter of time before other Power Five schools jump in to sponsor both men’s and women’s lacrosse. As the game continues to grow nationwide, the Pac-12 and SEC could benefit from adding programs in a sports landscape that continues to evolve.

In a March 2018 interview with US Lacrosse Magazine, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott opened up about the possibility of adding men’s lacrosse.

“There’s a lot of interest,” Scott said. “The footprint of our six states has a lot of lacrosse. They are all markets where youth lacrosse is booming. As a result, people close to our universities, like alumni and donors and employees, are evangelists of the sport. It’s on people’s radars, but it comes with challenges.”

Scott said many of the roadblocks come down to funding.

“It’s not easy in this day and age with the financial pressures on our universities,” he said. “All the focus on expenses, it’s not easy to add a sport. The fact that we’ve added lacrosse is in recognition of the growing popularity and interest our schools have in competing at the highest level.”

Could it happen? Sure. But with so much money tied up in football, basketball and other sports in these conferences, a drastic change could be needed.

Plausibility: 1/5

If the money’s right, but there’s not a single Big 12 School with varsity lacrosse right now.

Lacrosse Sevens

Much has been made about the value of small-sided play in youth lacrosse and beyond. Through US Lacrosse’s Lacrosse Athlete Development Model, players have experimented with small-sided play. Sports like rugby, cricket, field hockey and basketball have developed similar small-sided alternatives. 

As part of the push for Olympic inclusion, World Lacrosse and the Blue Skies Working Group have released a version of lacrosse that features a 6-v-6 format. Add one more field player, and lacrosse fans, get ready for Lacrosse Sevens in 2040.

Plausibility: 4/5

We’ve already seen small-sided competition, and the Olympic push is real.

A New Nation Will Emerge in a World Championship Final

Japan vs. the United States in the world championship final?

Lacrosse continues to grow in the U.S. and beyond. World Lacrosse has made it a mission to have 100 member nations playing lacrosse as part of Project 100, launched in 2019. That growth will come to fruition by 2040, when dozens of nations will be competitive on the world stage.

One will even crack a world championship final. It could be Japan. Maybe Israel. Or maybe a grassroots program like Jamaica?

Plausibility: 2/5

Given the strength of traditional powers, it’s unlikely. But possible.

Virtual Reality on the Field

Two years ago, the hit item at Lax Con was Virtual Goalie, a virtual reality headset and stick that simulates a lacrosse goalie stopping shots.

By 2040, virtual reality will be as vital to training as, well, reality. College and professional players will be able to strap on VR headsets and train in live-action settings. The NFL recently partnered with Zebra Technologies to provide augmented reality for players to train for in-game situations. It won’t be long before lacrosse embraces the power of VR and AR.

Plausibility: 1/5

Practice in your living room? Count us in.

International Women’s Box Lacrosse Will Happen

The box lacrosse game continues to grow in the U.S. and throughout the lacrosse world. It’s only a matter of time before women’s box lacrosse is offered. Canada and the U.S. will battle it out in the first-ever women’s indoor world championship.

The Canadians will triumph once again, but U.S. will grab its first indoor silver. Women will take to the box game at the same rate as the men.

Plausibility: 2/5

There needs to be a spike in interest first.

John Grant Jr. is Still Playing Professionally

Hat tip to Tanner Demling (@LacrosseBucket on Twitter) for this one. In Demling’s list of hot takes, he said Grant Jr. will still be playing at 75. In 2040, he’ll be 65. In a fun Twitter exchange, Grant Jr. said #neversaynever when we brought the tweet to his attention.

The question is worth asking. He retired after the 2016 season and spent the next two years as the Denver Outlaws’ offensive coordinator before unretiring in May to suit back up for Denver.

NBA legend Kevin Garnett once said, “Anything is possible.” Is it?

Plausibility: 0.00001/5

So you’re telling us there’s a chance?

College Players Get Paid
By Jeremy Fallis

Could lacrosse players start getting paid for their name, image and likeness? 

The hot-button topic has been debated for over a decade, but it now seems that the NCAA is willing to relent on its strict amateur status for student-athletes. On Oct. 29, the NCAA Board of Governors announced its intention to start the process to enhance name, image and likeness opportunities for student-athletes.

That’s been met by a sentiment of relief and skepticism by some of the lacrosse’s most prominent players. As of now, the NCAA says it’s paving a road for athletes to accept endorsements within reason, but how it will shake out with possible agents and its effects on a non-revenue sport like lacrosse creates more questions than answers.

“I am for this,” said Paul Rabil, co-founder of the Premier Lacrosse League. “I’ve always had the mindset, especially in football and basketball, that they’re bringing so much revenue into the sport that there should be some compensation to that. I think of the proposal by the NCAA, I was surprised by it, I think it’s a great option for all athletes.”

Plausibility: 3/5

If there’s revenue growth in college lacrosse, then why not?

College Box Lacrosse as a Winter Sport

An NCAA final four in early February. Who says no to that?

With the box game continuing to grow, and leagues like the Colorado Collegiate Box Lacrosse League taking shape, the sport will hit colleges as a winter club sport. Field players compete ahead of the spring season and enhance their skills.

Think of Trevor Baptiste entering the NLL with four years of high-level box experience.

Plausibility: 1/5

It’s probably too big an injury risk for NCAA athletes.

All Professional Lacrosse is Unified, and Players Earn a Livable Wage

In the next 20 years, pro lacrosse could unify. Picture a league of 20 men’s teams, all regionally based, that combines the best elements of both outdoor and indoor lacrosse. Because the league revenues are higher, players are able to earn a livable wage before factoring in endorsements, appearances and private clinics. The same goes for women’s lacrosse. A unified league that features 20 teams could have a similar structure that leads to increased pay days.

Plausibility: 3/5

Unite and conquer.

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