Philly Waterdogs announced as the city’s new Premier Lacrosse League team

The Philly Waterdogs will represent the City of Brotherly Love in the Premier Lacrosse League next season. The team’s schedule will be announced Jan. 1.

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Waterdogs' Michael Sowers during a game

Waterdogs' Michael Sowers and Cannons' Zach Goodrich (14) battle for the ball during a Premier Lacrosse League game, Sunday, June 6, 2021 in Foxborough, Mass. The Cannons won 13-7. (AP Photo/Vera Nieuwenhuis)

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The Premier Lacrosse League announced the eight cities its current field lacrosse teams will call home on Tuesday, and Philadelphia made the cut.

The Philly Waterdogs will represent the city competing in the sport created in the 12th century by North America’s Indigenous peoples.

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“Philadelphia is a proven sports city, and better yet, a proven lacrosse city,” said Mike Rabil, co-founder and CEO of the Premier Lacrosse League, in a press release. “Philly sports fans are getting a roster of highlight-making players who have put together three straight seasons of playoff-caliber performances. We’re excited to see their success continue in the City of Brotherly Love.”

The Waterdogs were formed in 2020 as the league’s first expansion team and won the 2022 PLL Championship. The team has some local connection with head coach Andy Copelan who attended Bucknell University, while 2022 PLL Championship MVP Michael Sowers hails from Dresher, Pa., and attended Upper Dublin High School, Princeton, and Duke.

The other teams announced for the league were the Boston Cannons, the New York Atlas, the Maryland Whipsnakes, the Carolina Chaos, the Denver Outlaws, the Utah Archers, and the California Redwoods. The Waterdogs will compete in the Eastern Conference with Boston, New York, and Maryland.

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The PLL has been a touring league since its creation in 2018. And will keep to that format for the majority of next season, league co-founder and president Paul Rabil said onthe PLL’s YouTube channel on Tuesday. He explained that the new home model would involve at least one home-stand double header during the regular season, while the league continues to visit multiple stops during the season.

“The touring model works for lacrosse right now because we’re able to introduce the game and all of its best players all at once, in tandem with our network partner,” Paul Rabil said in the video.

The Philadelphia Wings, the city’s National Lacrosse League team — which competes in box lacrosse, an indoor format of the game, played in a hockey rink on turf — was established in its current iteration in 2017, though the team name dates back to 1974 and original NLL.

“The lacrosse community that’s been built across our region over the last several decades is second-to-none. The Wings having been a part of it since the 1980s, we are constantly blown away by the passion and talent of the local players, coaches, administrators, and volunteers at all levels, and are not surprised that any lacrosse entity would want to associate with the Philly lacrosse family,” Marc Zamarin, President of the Philadelphia Wings, said when asked about the arrival of the Waterdogs.

Philly’s last professional men’s field lacrosse team, the Philadelphia Barrage, folded in 2020 when Major League Lacrosse merged with the PLL that year.

In an interview with WHYY News, Mike Rabil said that the league will announce where the Waterdogs’ exact Philadelphia-area home will be in January, and that Subaru Park in Chester — where the championship game has been held for three of the league’s five seasons — is one of the options.

Philly Waterdogs logo
The new logo of the Philly Waterdogs. (@PLLWaterdogs/Twitter)

“We have a great relationship, obviously, with Subaru Park and the Philadelphia Union organization. They get lacrosse there,” Mike Rabil said. “And there’s a couple other stadiums that we’re talking to that could be part of the mix.

The schedule for the 2024 league season will be announced Jan. 1, Paul Rabil said on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

The Waterdogs will also feature in the 2024 Championship Series from Feb. 14 to 19 in Springfield, Va., competing against the Archers, Cannons, and Redwoods. The playing format of the series will be Olympic Sixes, a fast-paced, compact field version of the sport that will be played when lacrosse features in the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Lacrosse last featured in the Olympics as a demonstration sport in 1946, and as a contested sport in 1908.

Mike Rabil said that — after looking at the league’s metrics — pairing a top-two city in terms of presence with one of the league’s most popular teams was a “no-brainer.”

“If you think about it, they were the first expansion team we had in the league. They, after two seasons, made it to the championship in 2022 and won. And then they made it back to the championship last year and narrowly lost,” Rabil said to WHYY News. “So if you think about being able to come from an expansion team in two years and win a championship, that’s an underdog story to me.”

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