Report: NLL to have three divisions in 2019-20

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The 2018-19 National Lacrosse League season is winding down and the playoffs are about to get underway, however, some interesting news regarding next season dropped on Sunday.

We already know about the league expansion teams officially opening their respective doors this summer. Rochester Knighthawks owner Curt Styres will take the organization out to Halifax and become the Thunderbirds. In terms of expansion franchises, New York will get one, as will Rochester - I know, confusing. Needless to say, when play begins next season, the league will look a little different.

The Philadelphia Wings were officially eliminated from playoff contention over the weekend after the New England Black Wolves won, clinching the final spot in the East. On Sunday, some of the Wings' season ticket holders received renewal letters, which included an interesting tidbit pertaining to the 2019-20 campaign.

The league will reportedly move to a three-division format starting next season. The West will remain unchanged. The East, on the other hand, is a different story.

Philadelphia will move into another division that will also feature the Black Wolves, Georgia Swarm, and the expansion New York Riptide. By process of elimination, that will leave the Buffalo Bandits, Toronto Rock, Rochester Knighthawks, and Thunderbirds to battle in the remaining division.

There was no mention of what the divisions will be named or what the playoff format will look like. However, that will have to be discussed throughout the summer.

The most logical - and likely - scenario would be for the top two teams in each respective division to make the postseason, with the two division leaders getting the top seeds. However, the league could also opt to just have the teams with the best four records make it in, regardless of division.

One thing this new realignment won’t be short on is rivalries. Toronto, Buffalo, and Rochester have been going head to head for over two decades. A game between the Rock and Bandits was ended early after the pair of teams started a bench-clearing brawl in the preseason.

There's also a real possibility that Rochester and Halifax quickly snowballs into quite the rivalry. With Styres upending the original Knighthawks franchise, the fanbases could grow some disdain for one another.

In the newly reported division, New York, Philly, and New England are all in relatively close proximity to one another. Georgia is just over a two-hour flight from each of the other cities, so travel would be light.

However, it appears as though the Wings may have jumped the gun on announcing the new plans, as the league put out a statement refuting the claims:

Since this weekend, there have been some statements and discussion regarding regarding league realignment as we plan for another exciting season with two expansion teams beginning play in 2019-20. While several scenarios are being considered, the League’s Board of Governors has not approved any change to the current division format. Our primary focus at this time is what we know will be an exciting and robust postseason beginning in May. An official and final announcement on the 2019-20 schedule and division alignment will follow in due time.
— National Lacrosse League

It’ll be very interesting to see what the league decides to do with the playoff format once they officially announce the new divisional plans. For now, however, lacrosse fans can enjoy the remaining regular season action and playoff games.

Austin OwensNLL, Lacrosse