Photos by Jason Hoynotski, John King, Rodney Chen, and Burt Granofsky – Ultiphotos.com
Major League Ultimate announced today that the 2016 schedule will, for the first time, include cross-divisional games during the regular season.
During the first three seasons of MLU play, all games were played exclusively within geographic Conference, with the champions of each division meeting in Philadelphia for the MLU Championship.
For the 2016 season, one team from each conference will make the trip from coast to coast to play a cross-divisional opponent for the first time.
“Cross-divisional games are one of those things that we’ve been wanting to do for a while, from the beginning of the MLU, really.” said MLU VP of Operations David Kucherlapati, “It’s been a bit of a pipedream for some time, and after a lot of work from our team we’ve finally been able to realize it.”
The decision to add cross-divisional games, while always a part of the league’s long-term plans, took into consideration the desire of MLU players, fans and sponsors, and will offer fans in two cities the opportunity to see the best ultimate players from the other side of the country.
“For us, this is the next logical step in the development of the league.” continued Kucherlapati, “We hope that these games will provide an injection of excitement and drama to the 2016 season for fans, but we also wanted to provide our players and coaches with a new opportunity and challenge to tackle.”
For the 2016 season, the New York Rumble will journey to the City by the Bay to take on the San Francisco Dogfish, while the Portland Stags travel to take on the Boston Whitecaps in Beantown.
Portland and Boston are the winningest regular season franchises in each conference (Portland has 19 wins over 3 seasons, Boston has 22). Their post-season records however are starkly different. Boston has been to the playoffs in each year of MLU, going 4-1 with two titles. Portland, despite hosting the conference finals for the last two seasons, has fallen to underdog challengers both times. Now these two powerhouse franchises will face off in what should be an extremely exciting game.
“Portland has been one of the best teams the past three years and we have always wanted to face them. The game will feature some of the best players in the game and should be a great test for both teams” said Boston Whitecap Christian Foster, “I believe the Portland/Boston regular season game will be a preview of the 2016 finals.”
“It’s fantastic that the MLU is being innovative and continuing to offer a better product.” said Portland Stag Cody Bjorklund, “I am honored that they picked Portland and I look forward to playing in Boston. “
While neither San Francisco nor New York has made the playoffs over the last two seasons, both teams have shown signs of player development that is encouraging for 2016 and beyond. San Francisco is 0-1 in cross-divisional games, having lost the 2013 MLU Championship to the Whitecaps. New York looks to become the first Eastern Conference franchise to win a game on the West Coast.
With a 0-3 record in MLU Championship games, no Western Conference team has ever defeated a team from the East. Portland and San Francisco aim to change that in 2016.
“We are excited to begin introducing cross-division games,” said MLU Executive VP Nic Darling, “We think it’s a great way for fans to see more of our league and a great way for the players to get an even better experience playing for us. Hopefully this is just the beginning and we will be growing our cross-divisional play as the years go on.”
All teams will continue to play a 10-game season. The cross-divisional games will still count as regular season games though there will be some changes to the tie-break system, likely weighing divisional games more heavily.
“At the end of the 2016 season, our hope is to see success in these games and then to build upon that success for the years to come.” said Kucherlapati, “Ideally, we’d like to see more games between the divisions and give each of our teams an opportunity to face each other on the field. In the future, I hope we’ll see just that.”
The entire 2016 schedule will be released in the next few weeks on www.MLUltimate.com.