Let’s get this straight: I love lacrosse. But that doesn’t mean everything with the sport is right.
Matter of fact, you’ve heard me say plenty of things about what’s wrong with some forms of lacrosse.
But with the report from the Los Angeles Times on Monday that the 2028 Summer Olympics would be held in Los Angeles, it’s raised an interesting question in the lacrosse community.
Will lacrosse be in the Olympics?
Should they? As a fan, absolutely. It’s a great sport and many countries have national organizations. Rutgers Scarlet Knights head coach Brian Brecht mentioned that longtime Scarlet Knights coach Tom Hayes has championed growing the sport worldwide. He also mentioned that lacrosse is “very close” to being in the Olympics.
I’m not sure what Brecht refers to when he says committee, but Hayes was big in getting the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) a membership into the International World Games Association, an international organization recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and SportAccord. The latter is where pretty much every global sport organization is a member of, such as FIFA and the IIHF.
This is how women’s lacrosse was included in this year’s World Games in Poland.
But will Olympic lacrosse happen for 2028? I don’t think so. And there’s a few reasons why.
An obvious one is the amount of Americans and Canadians on rosters other than the United States and Canada. Former Princeton Tigers defenseman Alistair Berven was born in San Francisco and plays on Team England. His mother was a rower on the British national rowing team and a London University grad. Others that play on Team England include OCC’s Holden McDonald (Canada) and Hofstra Pride attackman Jimmy Yanes (California).
Former Syracuse Orange midfielder Paul Carcaterra played for Team England in the 1998 World Games. He was a Long Island kid coming from Yorktown.
There’s also nine players from Team China that are listed as either from Canada or the United States.
Here’s the FIL’s Player Eligibility Criteria from 2012 for the women’s side. It describes the difference between a ‘national’ and a ‘non national’ player.
2. Eligibility and Nationality
2.1 In order to play for the national team of a country, a player must be a national (see definition) or a non national (see definition).
2.1.1 A ‘National’ is defined as a person holding the legal nationality of that country (i.e., passport, landed immigrant status, permanent citizenship, etc.) as obtained by birth or by naturalization and who has fulfilled the conditions of eligibility according to the internal regulations of that country
2.1.2 A ‘Non National’ is defined a player who meets at least one (1) of the conditions below:
a) Parents: One or both birth parents, adoptive parents or step-parents born in the country.
b) Grandparents: One or more birth or adoptive grandparents born in the country. Step-Grand Parents are not acceptable.
c) Marriage: Partner/spouse being a passport holder the country, with the qualification that the couple must be resident in the country being represented.
2.2 Any nation may have up to 15% of its players who are non-nationals (see above for requirements).
The Olympic Charter (page 81) says only a national of the Olympic Committee may participate and represent his or her country. But if they are a national of two countries, this can apply:
A competitor who is a national of two or more countries at the same time may represent either one of them, as he may elect. However, after having represented one country in the Olympic Games, in continental or regional games or in world or regional championships recognised by the relevant IF, he may not represent another country unless he meets the conditions set forth in paragraph 2 below that apply to persons who have changed their nationality or acquired a new nationality.
A competitor who has represented one country in the Olympic Games, in continental or regional games or in world or regional championships recognised by the relevant IF, and who has changed his nationality or acquired a new nationality, may participate in the Olympic Games to represent his new country provided that at least three years have passed since the competitor last represented his former country. This period may be reduced or even cancelled, with the agreement of the NOCs and IF concerned, by the IOC Executive Board, which takes into account the circumstances of each case.
So guys like Berven and Yanes sound like they would need to apply for citizenship in Britain in order to compete in a possible Olympic games. The FIL must adopt this rule if their goal is the Olympics. But if they do, it will severely hurt the quality of play from other nations.
And that’s where point number two comes in. On the men’s side, ever since the first FIL World Championship in 1967, the USA and Canada have placed in the top three in each event, with Australia placing in the top three as well besides 2014, when the Iroquois took third and Australia finished fourth.
But there’s been a huge gap between the United States and Canada, and the rest of the world. The Iroquois would not be able to compete because they are not a member of the United Nations. Instead, they’re a sovereign nation. So many of those players would have to join the UN member nation they reside in, which would widen the competition gap even more.
It’s not worth having big blowouts of 19-4 in the quarterfinals or semifinals of an Olympic competition. It’s currently a sport dominated by North America and there’s no one else that can come close in either gender.
There’s a few others, such as trying to find a field that both men and women can play on. Are these problems that could be fixed in 11 years? They sure can, but these changes would need to be in play for at least a few years so the IOC can see how it affects the game, before considering the sport for the Olympics.
Lacrosse could see a small surge in participation when it’s on the Olympics, but I don’t see a surge that soccer got when the USA made the 2002 World Cup Quarterfinals. It won’t be on primetime on NBC because, let’s face it, it’s lacrosse. It will probably be streamed for the most part, with the USA playoff games on some cable channel. But take it. If you think lacrosse should be played on primetime broadcast TV in the Olympics, you need to step outside of the lacrosse world for a few seconds.
I’m not sure how long it might take for lacrosse to be seriously considered for the Olympics. There’s plenty of sports that aren’t in the Olympics that are deserving of a chance as well. It could be a demonstration sport in 2028 with the national teams, but I don’t see it as a competitive event.