If you are a sports fan then you are familiar with the major sports leagues such as the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) but there are other professional sports leagues that are pretty awesome. Unfortunately, you rarely see any of their highlights on SportsCenter or your local sports news. They all have their own appeal and worth taking a look at.
AMERICAN ULTIMATE DISC LEAGUE (AUDL)
- Year Began: 2012
- Number of teams: 26
- Website: www.theaudl.com
The AUDL plays “Ultimate” frisbee rules which are rules created in 1968 by a group of students at Columbia High School in Mapelwood, New Jersey. Ultimate is a combination of soccer, football and basketball. The appeal of AUDL games are lots of scoring and exciting catches.
According to various sources, players get paid about $25 per game but as a young league trying to gain ground, it probably isn’t going to make anyone rich. Games are played on weekends from April – July. None of the teams play in a major league stadium yet but more intimate settings for their fans. Some games can be seen on ESPN3.
Why the sport isn’t more popular: Lack of media coverage and major sponsorship.
Future Plans: The International Olympic Committee has recognized Ultimate with 58 countries participating in the sport which could lead it to become an Olympic sport.
MAJOR ARENA SOCCER LEAGUE (MASL)
- Year Began: 2008
- Number of teams: 17
- Website: www.maslsoccer.com
Indoor soccer has been around since the 1970s when the North American Soccer League (NASL) sponsored indoor tournaments during the offseason. The sport really took off in the 1980s when the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) began. Over the years, there have been various forms of the MISL until they merged with the Premier Arena Soccer League (PASL) in 2014. The MASL plays a 20-game schedule that runs from November-March.
Why the sport isn’t more popular: Lack of media coverage; franchise instability; competition with NBA and NHL.
Future Plans: The owner of the Baltimore Blast which won the 2015-2016 season title has created his own league and taken some of the MASL teams with him. The MASL is pressing forward with an expansion to El Paso as well as creation of a second division to start in 2017 or 2018.
NATIONAL LACROSSE LEAGUE (NLL)
- Year Began: 1987
- Number of teams: 9
- Website: www.nll.com
The NLL is the indoor version of outdoor lacrosse (originally called “box lacrosse”) which is played on the same dimensions as hockey. It is called “the fastest game on two feet”. The NLL started in 1987 as the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League. The game is a lot like hockey without the ice. The game features high scoring games and lots of hitting. The NLL plays an 18 game schedule from December to April. All games are played on weekends except for an occasionally Friday night game. The average salary is $19,135 and the maximum salary for a franchise player is $34,000.
The league is very popular in cities such as Buffalo and Saskatoon where they average over 11,000 per game. Saskatoon’s Saskatchewan Rush won the NLL title this past season.
Why the sport isn’t more popular: Franchise instability; competition with NBA and NHL.
Future Plans: The NLL has recently hired Nick Sakiewicz as commissioner. Although he is not a known name, he is hoping to to find the right cities for expansion. Instead of exposure on a television contract, he is exploring digital media and streaming NLL games.
MAJOR LEAGUE LACROSSE (MLL)
- Year Began: 2001
- Number of Teams: 9
- Website: www.majorleaguelacrosse.com
Outdoor lacrosse has been in existence since the Native Americans originated the sport in North America. MLL was formed in 1999 and started play in the summer of 2001. The season runs from April to August as teams play a 14-game schedule. The league averaged 4,384 spectators per game last season. The Denver Outlaws have led the league in attendance in nine of the past 10 seasons.
MLL players get paid between $10,000-$25,000. The league’s top player this season is Paul Rabil of the New York Lizards. Rabil has a blazing 111-mph right-hand shot. He leads the league with 23 goals this season.
The league has some different rules from the traditional game with a two-point goal line 16 yards from each goal, a 60-second shot clock and the elimination of the restraining box.
Why the sport isn’t more popular: Franchise instability; competition with baseball
Future Plans: The league is hoping to expand to other markets in the near future. Broadcasting MLL games is another vital part of the league’s future as they continue to reach out to television, radio and the Internet.
PROFESSIONAL RUGBY ORGANIZATION (PRO Rugby)
- Year Began: 2016
- Number of Teams: 5
- Website: PRORugby.org
Next to soccer, rugby is also played worldwide. Several countries already have pro leagues in place but the United States hasn’t had a professional league that gained any momentum. PRO Rugby is the Professonal Rugby Organization and plays 12 regular season games over 16 weeks from April to July. They are the first sanctioned professional rugby league in the United States. Players make an average salary of $25,000.
PRO Rugby has five teams which began the season without nicknames but during the season fans have provided the names for the league’s first original teams: Ohio Aviators, Sacramento Express, San Diego Breakers, Denver Stampede and San Francisco Rush.
The league is averaging about 1,500 fans per match which is good for a startup league.
Why the sport isn’t more popular: Relatively unknown to most sports fans; competition with baseball and soccer; it’s not American football.
Future Plans: Expansion to the East Coast and Canada.
None of these leagues are expected to breakup the major league sports in anyway but they each offer something to enjoy. People are playing and getting paid to play these obscure sports.