Led by All-World attackman Shinya Hateishi, Japan finished in fifth place in the World Lacrosse Men's Championship, securing a spot in Pool A for 2027.

Lacrosse in the Olympics? LA28 Decision Expected in Coming Weeks

A DECISION ON WHETHER LACROSSE WILL BE ADDED to the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles is expected in the coming weeks, officials say.

Lacrosse is one of nine sports the LA28 Organizing Committee is considering for recommendation to the International Olympic Committee for the 2028 Games. Baseball/softball, breaking, cricket, flag football, karate, kickboxing, motorsport and squash are the others.

It’s a hotly contested numbers game with a web of connected yet moving parts.

“We are very hopeful that lacrosse will be selected as one of the sports in Los Angeles,” said World Lacrosse CEO Jim Scherr. “It’s both incredibly exciting and a bit nerve wracking at times.”

The IOC gave World Lacrosse full recognition in 2021. That was only the first step. If LA28 recommends lacrosse’s inclusion to the IOC, final approval would come at the IOC Session Oct. 15-17 in Mumbai.

“That’s the dream for all of us — to play in the Olympics,” said 25-year-old Michael Sowers, an All-World midfielder for the U.S. Men’s National Team. “If I’m healthy and still playing at that point, I would love to do it.”

“There’s no reason why lacrosse shouldn’t be in the Olympics.”

— Joe Tsai

Lacrosse was contested in the Olympics in 1904 and 1908 and was a demonstration sport in 1928, 1932 and 1948. World Lacrosse has built its case for a return over the last two decades.

“The story of lacrosse, its origins and history — coupled with our future prospects for growth and popularity — make lacrosse a great addition to the LA28 Games,” Scherr said.

The 2023 World Lacrosse Men’s Championship in San Diego was the latest example of the sport’s growth and swelling appeal globally. Thirty nations competed, with the U.S. defeating Canada 10-7 in the gold medal game and the Haudenosaunee topping Australia for the bronze.

Even more compelling in the case for Olympic inclusion, Japan (fifth), Jamaica (eighth) and Puerto Rico (10th) were all top-10 finishers. For Japan, specifically, it continued an impressive international run that included a bronze medal at The World Games and fifth-place finishes in the U20 men’s and senior women’s world championships last year.

“The final standings were a powerful indicator of competitive parity,” said Paul Rabil, co-founder and president of the Premier Lacrosse League which has headquarters in Los Angeles. “And I would only expect that movement to become more global if we get the LA28 nod.”

The 2023 World Lacrosse Men’s Championship was broadcast in more than 190 countries, and more than 82,000 fans attended the event in person over the 11-day duration. The World Lacrosse Women’s Championship in Towson, Md., in July 2022, sold more than 40,000 tickets and was the first women’s world championship to have linear television distribution in the U.S. The U.S. women also won that championship, though the top five goal scorers represented Czech Republic, Mexico, England, Ireland and Korea.

World Lacrosse has grown from 16 member countries in the beginning of 2003 to 86 now after Brazil was added in May, a 438-percent increase in 20 years.

In The World Games 2022, the fast-paced sixes format made its international debut. The discipline reduces the roster size and improves lacrosse’s chances to be added to the Olympics, with a cap on the total number of athletes currently set at 10,500. Japan demonstrated how a non-traditional team could develop its own style and compete at the highest level with fewer players per side.

“The World Games was a real proving ground for sixes,” Scherr said. “The play was phenomenal, the competition was fantastic, the reception by the fans not only in the venue but those who consumed digitally was incredible, and I think LA28 and the IOC using that event as an observation of lacrosse were incredibly impressed.”

Canada took home the gold medal in both the men’s and women’s events.

“To play in a multi-sport event surrounded by athletes from multiple disciplines and totally different sports than we grew up playing, it really did showcase on a really small scale what that Olympic inclusion would feel like and what that would mean to be participating representing your country at a multi-sport event,” said Dana Dobbie, former vice chair of the World Lacrosse Athletes’ Commission and a member of the Canadian women’s national team since 2009. “I don’t think I was really prepared to feel the weight of that.”

The athlete cap is one challenge to being added to the Olympic menu. There are already 28 sports approved for LA 2028 and many have sought to add disciplines within their sports, which as a result would likely add more athletes. Three more sports — boxing, modern pentathlon and weightlifting — that were dropped from the Olympics due to noncompliance issues are fighting to be reinstated. Baseball/softball (Major League Baseball), cricket (Indian Premier League) and flag football (National Football League) bring financial backing that is tough to match.


Dana Dobbie (27) was captain of the Canadian women's sixes team that won gold at The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, Ala.

Thankfully, lacrosse also has strong backing from the likes of the PLL, the National Lacrosse League and key investors such as Joe Tsai — the billionaire co-founder of the Alibaba Group who owns the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and two NLL franchises.

“The financial support and key backing in lacrosse includes globally recognized sports owners and investors like Joe Tsai, The Kraft Group, David Blitzer, Chernin Group, Arctos Sports, CAA (Creative Artists Agency) and many more,” Rabil said.

In a recent interview with Front Office Sports, Tsai called sixes “the great equalizer” in lacrosse and said, “There’s no reason why lacrosse shouldn’t be in the Olympics.”

The PLL, NLL and Athletes Unlimited have aided the Olympic push with their unified support. The efforts to gain Olympic entry have strengthened World Lacrosse in every aspect, and Olympic inclusion would be a further catalyst.

“It would just be an unbelievable experience,” said Athletes Unlimited and U.S. Women’s National Team star Charlotte North. “It’s a collective goal of everyone involved in the sport to get lacrosse into the Olympics.”

Whether lacrosse is included or not in 2028, World Lacrosse will continue its efforts to improve access and visibility to the game. Scherr expects World Lacrosse to shift its focus from adding new countries to growing participation, financial support and infrastructure in existing countries.

And the push for Olympic inclusion will continue to 2032 and beyond.


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