Olympic Sports That Should Have Pro Leagues

Now that the Summer Olympic Games have concluded, we can go back to our normal rotation of sports. Every four years we are introduced to sports that are played that do not have professional sports leagues in the United States. Here are some that I think could be a professional league here:

TEAM HANDBALL

This sport is not widely known in the US but it should be. It is an exciting and high-scoring sport that combines elements of soccer and basketball. The sport was created in Germany around the late 19th century and became a way for football (soccer) players to stay in shape during the cold winter months. Today the sport is mostly popular in Denmark, France, Poland and Germany.

Just before the 1996 games in Atlanta, I attended an exhibition game but there were just a handful of spectators. Americans don’t know about the sport or they get it confused with the wall version of handball. Look up team handball on YouTube and you will see some good video of the sport.

The only way Team Handball could become a professional sport here is for someone who is known to back the sport. If the US teams ever won the Gold Medal that would be some help but someone like Mark Cuban or other sports guru would need to bring attention to the sport and provide financial backing to get it started.

Will it happen? Probably not. If the sport’s popularity is based upon the US Teams winning a Gold Medal then it has a slim chance of happening. Neither team qualified for the Rio games.

If I were putting a professional league together, I would play a 20-24 game schedule from May-August so as not to compete with the NBA or NHL. Teams would probably do well in cities like Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix, Miami and Orlando.

WATER POLO

This sport would be an ideal summer league in the US. The sport is very physical and lots of contact goes on underneath the surface. The games are usually low-scoring so that could hinder the sport from taking off here. With kids and swimming pools in the summer, the sport could support a professional league.

Again, the sport would need some major financial backing because they would also need facilities for the sport.

A big plus for the sport is that the NCAA sanctions the sport and competes every year. The most successful teams are California, Stanford and UCLA who have won the men’s title 33 times between them.

If I were putting a professional league together, I would play an 18-20 game schedule from June-August. Teams would probably do well in cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, Boston and Miami.

FIELD HOCKEY

This sport is a combination of ice hockey and soccer that is played outdoors on a grass or turf field. It is popular in Argentina, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. It isn’t very well-known in the US although it is regionally popular for high school girls’ teams in the Northeast. If mentioned, people mostly will associate the game as a girls’ sport which hurts any chance the sport would need to become a professional league here. That isn’t being sexist but the unfortunate truth for a major sports league to even get on the map. Although the sport is very competitive and physical, it is also low-scoring.

The NCAA also sanctions the sport which is a plus for any potential professional league to be developed. The Syracuse women on the 2015 title over North Carolina 4-2. In the NCAA, the championship is contested exclusively by women’s teams and there is no equivalent NCAA men’s championship in the sport.

If I were putting a professional league together, I would have a simultaneous men’s and women’s league culminating in a championship weekend. Teams would play a 12-14 game schedule from April-June. Teams would probably do well in cities like New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington DC.

VOLLEYBALL

If there was ever a sport that was primed to have the best chance at becoming a professional league in the US it would be volleyball. There have been attempts made to establish leagues such as the International Volleyball Association (IVA), Major League Volleyball (MLV) and Premier Volleyball League (PVL). The PVL is still playing but it is more like a national club league.

Volleyball is known in the US. Almost everyone has played the game in P.E. Class or in the backyard of someone’s house. The NCAA sanctions the sport for both men and women but for most high schools, the sport is mostly a girls’ sport.

It would take some backing from major sports arena owners to make a professional league possible. Perhaps NBA or NHL owner who want to continue to generate revenue during the offseason. Fortunately the popularity of beach volleyball has subsided to where indoor volleyball could have a viable shot once again.

If I were putting a professional league together, I would find a way to combine men’s and women’s teams as one squad. Teams could alternate between sets. It wouldn’t have to be a separate men’s or women’s league. Teams would play a 32-game schedule from May-September. Franchises would probably do well in cities like Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego and Dallas.

Aside from playing in leagues overseas, there aren’t many options for athletes in these sports. Unless there are avenues for these sports in the US, you won’t see them on any cable sports channel in the near future. It was only a few years ago that you could have added soccer to this list and you can see how it has grown with Major League Soccer (MLS). Anything is possible and, personally, I could watch any of these sports ahead of soccer.

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