1. Philadelphia Barrage - No team in Major League Lacrosse has travelled as much as the Barrage. Originally playing in Bridgeport, CT from 2001-2003, the Barrage settled in Philadelphia where they won 3 league championships (2004, 2006, 2007). After financial, stadium, and ownership issues during their last championship season, the MLL took control of the team. In order to test the waters of several potential expansion cities, the Barrage went on tour for the 2008 season. After winning three of their five "home" games (wins: Virginia Beach, Dallas, St. Louis; losses: Cary, Portland) and four of their seven road games, the Barrage made it to the league semifinals. Hoping to repeat, they took the Rattlers to overtime only to lose by a single goal.
Philadelphia is a sports mad city. They love their Eagles, Flyers, Sixers, and Phillies. Very few markets are as rabid as the City of Brotherly Love and very few offer such a potentially strong lax following. After all, the Wings are the oldest team in the National Lacrosse League. Pittsburgh's entry opens the door for a cross state rivalry that will mimic that of the Flyers and Penguins. This rivalry will bring out strong civic pride in both fan bases whenever the teams face each other.
Before they bounced around the country, the Barrage bounced around the Philadelphia metro area. But with the birth of Philadelphia Union in the MLS comes an appropriate venue for lacrosse - Union Field. The 18,500 seat stadium sits on the banks of the Delaware River and offers a welcoming environment. With ample transportation options and a lower operational cost than other venues in the city, Union Field would become known as a premier lacrosse facility.
2. New York Red Bulls - I can already see the responses for this one. Purists will hate the fact that I even suggested such an atrocity. Some will decry bringing in a second New York area franchise, especially after the failure of the NLL's Titans. However, I have four very good reasons for suggesting this team.
First, New York is probably the most important market. Considered the center of world capitalism, NYC is vital to the success of pretty much every sports league. The NFL, NHL, and MLB all have two teams in the market. The NBA's Nets and a third NHL team (New Jersey Devils) are on the fringe of the NYC market; there is consistent talk of the Nets moving to Brooklyn. While the Lizards are technically in the New York market, the average New Yorker would blatantly claim that Long Island is not "New York". Somehow Harrison, New Jersey is considered "New York" as evidenced by the construction of Red Bull Arena for the MLS team. Regardless, a team named for and representing the NYC metro is vital to the league's success.
Second, Red Bull Arena is scheduled to open this season. The 25,000 seat stadium is already being regarded as the crown jewel of the MLS despite its teams' inability to succeed. With a cost estimated over $100 million, the Austrian beverage maker will surely be looking to increase revenue with a second professional team. Lacrosse has already demonstrated itself as a suitable fit for soccer stadiums.
Third, the league needs another high dollar investor. Red Bull entered MLS with the purchase of the Metrostars in 2006. The estimated $200 million purchase price included the team and its history. But it also brought the aforementioned stadium, new league sponsorship, and the beginning of team shirt sponsorship - all of which translated into a major revenue stream for the league. With sponsored skateboarders, surfers, air races, and other high energy events, lacrosse could become Red Bull's marquee team sport. Lacrosse is generally viewed a hip and tough - if not "extreme" - which fits nicely into their advertising niche. Major League Lacrosse would certainly benefit from such inclusion.
My fourth point is a justification of the team's name. It can be assumed that Red Bull will be putting some serious dollars into their MLL investment. Having the naming rights for the team that they own which plays in their stadium is a given. As their Racing teams, Austrian hockey team, and MLS, Austrian, Brazilian, & German soccer clubs are already named after the drink, expect the MLL team to follow suit. Using the same name for multiple teams under one organization is a traditional practice in many countries, and is evidenced by the Austrian program alone. Adding the lax team to the fold would be the logical course.
On a side note, a pseudo fifth reason, the logo lends itself beautifully to lacrosse. It is not hard to imagine a charging red bull on either side of a silver (or athletic gold) Pro7. The key would be convincing the Austrian giant that the jerseys should be red rather than the navy worn by their soccer and hockey teams...
Now at fourteen teams, the league can expand the playoff structure to include two more teams. The first place team in each division automatically earns a spot in the league's championship weekend semifinals. The second place team in each division will host a playoff game the weekend before. Facing them will be the fifth and sixth team overall to be seeded first by division, then by standing. See the examples below for a better explanation.
Adding two teams to the Eastern Division will create some growing pains. It will also cause temporarily unbalanced divisions; the alternative would be moving a team from the East to the West. Since Philadelphia was brought back in to feud with Pittsburgh, moving the Pride would be illogical. With the rest of the teams firmly entrenched, there is no alternative. The new East includes: Philly, NY, Long Island, Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Rochester. The West soldiers on with: Chicago, Denver, Dallas, LA, Seattle, and San Jose.
A. League: 1. Boston-E, 2. Toronto-E, 3. Washington-E, 4. Denver-W, 5. Chicago-W, 6. Long Island -E, 7. LA -W, 8. SJ - W, etc.
As the winners of their divisions, Boston and Denver get a bye to Championship Weekend. As the runners-up of their divisions, Toronto and Chicago will host a playoff game. The playoffs make table look like this: 1. Boston - E, 2. Denver -W, 3. Toronto - E, 4. Chicago - W, 5. Washington - E, 6. Long Island -E, 7. LA -W, 8. SJ - W, etc.
Because the #5 and #6 teams are both from the East, Toronto draws the lower seed and will play Long Island. Chicago ends up with Washington by default.
Playoffs: East - LI at Toronto; West - Washington at Chicago
Championship Weekend: East winner vs Boston; West winner vs Denver
B. League: 1. Boston-E, 2. Toronto-E, 3. Washington-E, 4. Denver-W, 5. Chicago-W, 6. LA - W, 7. Seattle -W, 8. SJ - W, etc.
As the winners of their divisions, Boston and Denver get a bye to Championship Weekend. As the runners-up of their divisions, Toronto and Chicago will host a playoff game. The playoffs make table look like this: 1. Boston - E, 2. Denver -W, 3. Toronto - E, 4. Chicago - W, 5. Washington - E, 6. LA - W, 7. Seattle -W, 8. SJ - W, etc.
Because the #5 and #6 teams are both from both divisions, the overall rank does not matter. Toronto will host Washington and Chicago will host LA.
Playoffs: East - Washington at Toronto; West - LA at Chicago
Championship Weekend: East winner vs Boston; West winner vs Denver
Continue to Part 4