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What's next for the PLL after Championship Series success?

The Boston Cannons defeated the Philadelphia Waterdogs in an OT thriller in the final. What comes next, with lacrosse's Olympic return coming soon?

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Days after the Boston Cannons defeated the Philadelphia Waterdogs 23-22 in the Premier Lacrosse League's Championship Series final on an overtime goal by Matt Kavanagh, Paul Rabil was asked for his overall takeaway from the event.

"The flow of the game is incredible," Rabil, co-founder and president of the PLL told ESPN. "This format is higher speed, higher intensity and higher skilled."

After witnessing a barrage of shots, goals and viral highlights over the six-day event, fans would certainly agree with that assessment, and those on the field came away fired up as well.

"I talked to all my players this week, and every single one told me it was one of the coolest experiences of their life," Cannons coach/GM Brian Holman said. "For a group of professional players to say they felt like 12-year-old kids out there again playing the game, that's something special."

What comes next for the PLL after this successful showcase, with the sport's return to the Olympics just four years away?

THE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES saw the four top teams from the 2023 regular season -- the California Redwoods, Utah Archers, Cannons and Waterdogs -- play a round robin, semis and final in the "sixes" format that will be used when lacrosse returns to the Olympics in 2028. This was the first time the event was staged in this format after the IOC's announcement in October 2023.

There a number of differences between sixes and traditional field lacrosse, but here are the big ones:

"This is a simpler version of the game," Rabil said. "It's easier to follow the flow of the game if you played -- and especially for people who didn't play."

But, it also led to some challenges for those constructing and coaching the teams.

"I had never coached it before, and was excited to see how all of the nuances would unfold," Holman said. "We thought we would see more two-point shots and we did. It was also important to emphasize putting balls on the cage; you miss it and it's a turnover, so I wanted guys who had accurate shots."

Holman was also quick to credit Brodie Merrill -- the namesake of the PLL's long-stick midfielder of the year award -- who joined his coaching staff for the event, and had experience with the format from coaching Canada in the 2022 World Games.

There was also a need for a wardrobe adjustment for his goalies.

"I pretty much demanded that they wear sweatshirts and sweatpants," the coach said with a laugh. "I knew they were gonna see a lot more rubber in these games than a typical game."

Overall, the Championship Series averaged 83.7 shots per game -- which included an astounding 93 in the Cannons' opener against the Redwoods.

None of the 85 shots in the final were more important than Matt Kavanagh's, which sealed the deal for Boston.

"He's done it a million times before," Cannons teammate Marcus Holman said after the game, per the league site. "He's the most clutch player probably in the history of lacrosse, straight up."

NOT ONLY DID this event feature the PLL's best-on-best tournament, fans were also treated to the Unleashed women's all-star game, where the best players in the world matched up in the sixes format as well.

The game ended with the North team defeating the South, 18-12, in front of a packed crowd. Charlotte North led the way for the victors, with six goals and two assists in earning MVP honors.

"These are the world's best, it doesn't get better than this, so to suit up alongside them was a dream come true," North said on the broadcast after the game.

Rabil noted the importance of including the top women's players, particularly when it comes to the Olympic return. And for fans, it's an easy switch to watch the women's game.

"The rules for men and women in this format are the same: the number of players, pace of play, shot clock, etc.," Rabil said. "We were thrilled to have this opportunity to showcase the world's greatest players."

The league brings a group of men and women players to Japan each March to do clinics and generally grow the game in that country, and he's been pleased with the results. Down the road, the idea is to have women's players at more PLL events, including the All-Star Game and future Championship Series.

SO WHAT COMES NEXT for the PLL, and this event? Asked for what he'd change if he was in charge for a day, Cannons coach Holman raised a line of discussion that might sound familiar to NFL fans.

"I'd change the OT rules," he said. "Make it more equitable, maybe make it a three-minute quarter or something. With this format, you don't really have any faceoff guys there, and the team that gets that first one in OT has a huge chance to win."

Or, at the very least, he'll be sure to get a certain message to his players, unlike some of his NFL counterparts.

"I definitely made sure they knew what the rules are," he said with a laugh.

The coach also thought maybe expanding the rosters to 12 field players and two goalies would make the grind of the series easier, but acknowledged that the physical and mental challenge of playing that many games in a row was a great experience and bonding opportunity for his team.

Fans who watched the series couldn't miss how different the tech and access were than other sports they watch on broadcast. All of that, of course, is by design.

"It's a collective effort for us with our broadcast partners to give fans the most immersive access and experience," Rabil said.

One of the new developments this year was the use of the jib camera, which functioned like a skycam to bring viewers close to the action. Zones were created on the field where the ref travels, which provided a safe path for the camera operators.

"We took a page out of the XFL version 1.0," Rabil noted.

The advancements in audio were also readily apparent, from goal mics that let fans hear a pop when a ball hits the net, to enhanced audio that allowed viewers to hear what coaches and players were saying throughout the game, leading to this viral moment when Tim Troutman had some trash talk for his former High Point teammate Asher Nolting:

Beyond continued innovation in how the game looks and sounds, the league has considered expanding the Championship Series field to include all eight teams, or potentially holding a play-in round. And there's also the international aspect to ponder, as Rabil noted they could hold a Little League World Series-style event, with top teams from other countries taking on the domestic clubs.

But before all of that, the PLL will hold its draft in early May, followed by the start of the 2024 regular season from May 31 to June 2 in Albany, NY.

"We are thrilled with how the Champ Series went," Rabil noted. "Revenues were up 50%, attendance was up 30% and viewership was up 140%. It sets us up for another great season."
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Pakistan

PML-N’s Malik Ahmed Khan elected as Punjab Assembly speaker

The newly elected speaker bagged 224 votes while his rival candidate of Sunni Itehad Council Ahmed Khan Bhachar could get 96 votes.

Published by Hussnain Bhutta

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Lahore: Malik Ahmed Khan, a prominent figure of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), emerged victorious as the Speaker of the Punjab Assembly on Saturday.

During the secret balloting process, Malik Ahmed Khan secured 224 votes, defeating his contender Malik Ahmed Khan Bhachar, who was nominated by the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC). Bhachar managed to gather 96 votes, while two votes were discarded during the counting process.

A total of 327 members exercised their voting rights to elect the speaker. However, no decision was reached concerning the 27 reserved seats of the provincial assembly, and 16 members abstained from voting.

The elections for the speaker and deputy speaker were conducted via a secret ballot following Rules 9 and 10 of the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab, 1997. Nomination papers were submitted by PML-N's Malik Ahmad Khan and Malik Zaheer Iqbal Channer for the respective positions.

Contrarily, the Sunni Ittehad Council nominated Ahmad Khan Bhachar and Muhammad Moeenuddin Riaz for the roles of speaker and deputy speaker, respectively.

Following the announcement of the election results, outgoing Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan administered the oath to Malik Ahmed Khan. PML-N's nominee for the Punjab Chief Minister position, Maryam Nawaz, congratulated Malik Ahmed Khan on his victory.

The session of the provincial assembly commenced with a delay of one hour and thirty-three minutes. Upon Maryam Nawaz's arrival in the hall, members of the Sunni Ittehad Council raised slogans against the PML-N leadership.

In retaliation, PML-N leaders chanted slogans against the PTI leadership, leading to verbal confrontations among assembly members. During the session, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Khalil Tahir Sindhu of the PML-N were observed encouraging party leaders to voice slogans against the PTI founder.

 

 

 

 

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Sports

NFL salary cap rises $30.6M to record $255.4M

The NFL announced Friday that its salary cap for the 2024 season will be a record $255.4 million per team -- a stunning 13.6 percent increase over last year's cap and a sign that the league is entering a new phase of exploding revenue.

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The NFL announced Friday that its salary cap for the 2024 season will be a record $255.4 million per team -- a stunning 13.6 percent increase over last year's cap and a sign that the league is entering a new phase of exploding revenue.

This year's salary cap will be $30.6 million more per team than last year's $224.8 million -- by far the largest jump it has taken from one year to the next since the salary cap was introduced in 1994.

The increase could have a significant impact on the free agent market set to open next month, as most teams had been using cap projections in the range of between $240 million and $245 million when budgeting for the upcoming season. As an example, there are three teams -- the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks -- that ESPN's Roster Management System projected to be over the cap as of Friday morning and should be under the cap now that the actual cap number is established.

Part of the reason for the massive jump is that the league has now paid back all of the player benefits that were deferred in 2020 as part of the agreement between the players and the league to keep the league running during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cap growth is directly tied to the league's revenue growth, but it was limited in 2022 and 2023 because the repayment of those benefits was subtracted from the final calculations. With all of the benefits repaid at this point, the 2024 cap number more closely reflects the increase in revenue.

In its announcement of the 2024 cap number, the NFL said one of the reasons for the sharp increase was "an extraordinary increase in media revenue." Since the league signed new deals with its broadcast partners in 2021, there has been a belief that 2024 and 2025 would be the first years in which the new TV revenue would really have a noticeable impact on league revenue. Friday's announcement indicates that that is the case. Given the expected ongoing impact of the broadcast rights deals, significant cap increases likely can be expected in the next several, as well.

The NFL saw a salary cap increase of roughly $10 million to $12 million per year every year from 2013 to 2020. The cap dropped by nearly $17 million (from $198.2 million to $182.5 million) in 2021 as a result of projected revenue losses due to the pandemic, but it jumped back up to $208.2 million in 2022 and $224.8 million in 2023.
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