The PLL to bring semifinals to Long Island; eyes area for possible franchise


There’s no question that Long Island is a hotbed for lacrosse.

So, it should come as no surprise that the Premier Lacrosse League continues to make the island one of its destinations as part of their tour-based model.

In each of the last two seasons, the PLL has had a regular-season weekend for its teams in Hempstead at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium. And it was recently announced the league is coming back to Long Island for the 2023 season.

But this year, Long Island is getting one of the premier events on the league’s schedule as Hofstra will host the PLL semifinals the weekend of Sept. 8-10.

And that means some upgrades to what fans have seen the last two years.

“I think we are going to, with their help, really up level the fan experience,” said PLL co-founder and CEO Mike Rabil. “We’re going to be increasing the fan experience. We’re really going to invest in our beer garden presence, custom built suites on the field… things that are going to elevate in partnership with Hofstra University that we haven’t been able to do and something that they really want to do.”  

There’s also some business-related strategy that came into play when the PLL decided to give Long Island the semifinal weekend over a regular season weekend. By bringing the best players in the world to Hofstra in September, there’s an opportunity for more fans on Long Island to see the games.

The Long Island lacrosse community can be particularly pre-occupied with other things in June, July and August.

“The thing about playing in the summer is that we compete with vacation and we compete with youth lacrosse tournaments sometimes,” said Rabil. “Last year, there was a massive tournament happening at the same time that we were there where many youth participants, middle school kids and high school kids are all playing.”

Regardless of what weekend it is, Long Island is now a fixture on the PLL schedule. During the PLL’s inaugural season in 2019, the league decided on Red Bull Arena in New Jersey for the NY/NJ area tour stop. Stony Brook University was on the schedule for 2020, but COVID-19 forced the league to cancel its traditional season and instead play a bubble-based championship series in Utah with no fans in attendance. The last two seasons, the PLL has played regular season games at Hofstra. Here are photos from last year’s weekend at Hofstra:

And now, Long Island will have PLL action for a third straight season as the league recognizes the island as one of the top lacrosse markets in North America. 

“So many of our players are from Long Island and the New York area,” said Rabil. “It’s a hotbed of lacrosse. From a youth perspective, it’s a vibrant place.”

During previous PLL weekends at Hofstra, the National Lacrosse League’s New York Riptide, who play their home games across the street from Shuart Stadium at the Nassau Coliseum, had a presence throughout the stadium grounds.

And that is expected to continue this year.

“We’re excited that their coming back and we’re excited that they made it such a big weekend,” said Rich Lisk, Riptide’s president and general manage. “It shows their commitment to Long Island.  We have a great relationship with the PLL. Anytime you can get a significant event like the PLL semifinals that brings more attention to lacrosse on Long Island, that’s a win for everyone.”

At last year’s weekend, there were some local celebrities on hand, including Islanders forwards Mat Barzal and Oliver Wahlstrom took in the action from VIP seats on the field.

Heading into the league’s fifth season, the Premier Lacrosse League has been a success and the league continues to find ways to grow the sport.  Later this month, they will hold the Championship Series, a lacrosse tournament in the DC Metro Area and Springfield. It’s a six-on-six event featuring the Atlas, Whipsnakes, Archers and Chrome, the top four teams from last year’s regular season.

The PLL is hoping that this style of lacrosse can help persuade the International Olympic Committee to add lacrosse.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Rabil. “It’s really important for the bid we put in with the IOC just to be seen that the best players in the world are playing that format.”  

The Championship Series will take place from Feb. 22-26 and will be streamed on ESPN+, with some games on ESPN 2 and ESPNU.

Possible change to PLL’s tour-based model?

PLL co-founders and brothers (L-R) Mike Rabil and Paul Rabil. (Courtesy photo)

As the league continues to evolve, there has been some discussion about eventually transitioning from the tour-based model to bringing their teams to specific markets. 

Right now, lacrosse fans around North America can watch all of the games on the various ESPN platforms and see their favorite teams and players in person if they can attend one of the weekends on the tour.

But there could be a time in the near future when a community will have a team of their own to root for.  

“We really want to get more invested into the communities,” said Rabil. “The tour-based model is working really well, but we want to try and find a way to double-down and get into the communities so we’re looking at an array of different varieties of this.”

Bringing their eight clubs into specific markets is one option, but as the PLL continues to discuss their future plans internally, there could be other ways to combine giving geographic areas their own teams while also continuing to grow the sport in other areas of North America.  

“What we want to do is find ways to attach our teams to geography at some time in the future but not lose the efficiency and ability to spread the word and the game to markets that aren’t traditionally lacrosse-rich markets,” said Rabil. 

“The tour-based model allows us to spread the game quicker, but we also recognize that we need to get a deeper fan affinity and attaching geos is one way to do that.”

The Premier Lacrosse League merged with Major League Lacrosse in 2020 with the PLL assuming the MLL’s history and its clubs. The PLL added the Cannons, formerly the Boston Cannons in the MLL, as an expansion team for the 2021 season.

The New York Lizards (previously the Long Island Lizards) called Hofstra University home for a majority of the time they played in Major League Lacrosse from 2001 to 2020.  They won three league championships including 2015, a team that included PLL co-Founder and Mike’s brother, Paul Rabil, who is one of the greatest players in lacrosse history. 

Could the Lizards be the next expansion club and could Long Island potentially be home to a PLL franchise?

“We’re working on it,” said Rabil. “Will Long Island/New York be part of that?  Definitely a strong chance. We do look at our database and try to figure out if we are going to be serving a lot of our fans and obviously the New York/Long Island area is up there at the top.”

While we don’t know just when the Premier Lacrosse League will bring their teams in market or if that would mean the return of the Lizards, here’s what we do know:

The best four teams in the PLL are coming to Long Island for the 2023 semifinals and that will create a lacrosse weekend to remember at Hofstra University.  

Top: 2022 PLL MVP Trevor Baptiste taking selfies with fans at Shuart Stadium last year. (File photo)