Major League Lacrosse was founded in 1998 by Jake Steinfeld, Dave Morrow and Tim Robertson. Steinfeld is the creator of the Body By Jake line of exercise equipment and videos; Morrow is a former All-American lacrosse player and the president of Warrior Sports.
MLL began regular season play in June 2001 with six teams in the northeastern U.S. split into two divisions. The American Division included teams in Boston, Bridgeport CT, and Long Island; the National Division included teams in Baltimore, New Jersey, and Rochester. The MLL played a 14-game regular season its first two years; in 2003, the schedule was cut to 12 games. The league's playoff format has the top teams in each division advancing to the MLL Championship Weekend, with two wild card playoff spots going to the teams with the best remaining records regardless of division.
MLL added four teams for the 2006 season, bringing the league's number of teams up to ten. The league expand to Los Angeles for the 2006 season, with the team playing its home games at The Home Depot Center; AEG, Inc. was confirmed as the franchise's owner/operator. Denver, Colorado was also home to an expansion team playing at Invesco Field at Mile High. The league also added teams in the Chicago, Illinois and San Francisco, California markets. MLL created a western conference for these four teams, and the MLL Western Conference play began with the 2006 season.
In an effort to test markets as potential expansion/relocation candidates, the Philadelphia Barrage franchise played all of its 2008 "home" matches in five other cities; Cary, North Carolina; Hillsboro, Oregon; Irving, Texas; St. Louis; and Virginia Beach. In addition the Barrage's "home game" against Boston was played in Boston.
At the end of the 2008 season, four teams (Los Angeles, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and San Francisco) folded due to financial problems. Several of these teams had suffered from poor average attendance — New Jersey (1,920) and San Francisco (2,808). This contraction forced the remaining six teams to form one conference.
At the start of the 2009 season, the Toronto Nationals bought the rights to the Rochester Rattlers. The Toronto team gained the staff and players of the Rochester team, but the Rochester name and the team colors were left in Rochester for the possibility of a future team. The Chicago Machine played the entire 2010 season as a traveling team testing expansion markets for the league, before deciding that the Chicago Machine franchise would be moving to Rochester, New York. The new Rochester franchise played at Sahlen's Stadium, the same stadium the older Rochester Rattlers used at the end of their tenure in Rochester before relocating to Toronto.
During the early years of MLL, the league did not have any teams in the southeast. Commissioner David Gross announced on December 9, 2010 that two expansion teams would be created for the 2012 season. Charlotte and Columbus were approved in January 2011 to host expansion teams to begin play in 2012. Gross also stated that there would be two more expansion teams for 2013, and that the long-term goal is to have 16 teams by 2020.
For the 2011 season, the MLL had an average attendance of 6,417. In 2012, the league added two more games to the schedule for a total of fourteen games.
Two more southern teams were added in 2014–15. The Florida Launch expansion team was awarded to Palm Beach County, Florida and began play in 2014. The league remained at eight teams for the 2014 season, however, as the Hamilton Nationals did not play the 2014 season. On August 8, 2015, Gross announced that Atlanta would be granted the league's next expansion team. They would start play in 2016 as the Atlanta Blaze and the ninth MLL team.
On February 14, 2014, MLL announced a partnership with Adrenaline and the LXM Pro Tour, a week after the league announced their new equipment deal with STX. The LXM Pro Tour is a lacrosse showcase, hosting events usually in non-traditional lacrosse markets. The deal moves LXM to the MLL off-season and allows players to participate in both MLL and LXM.
In the past the LXM had been known to lure some players away from MLL, including former Ohio Machine first overall pick Peter Baum and New York Lizards draft pick Sam Bradman. Many of these players were signed on with STX, which led to their decision to play LXM instead of MLL.
The season runs from April to August. MLL rules that differ from traditional lacrosse rules include a two-point goal line 16 yards (15 m) from each goal, a 60-second shot clock, and the elimination of the restraining box. From the inception of the league in 2001 to 2008 there was a limit of three long-stick defensemen per team. Beginning in 2009, the league conformed to high school and college lacrosse rules and allow four long–stickman per team on the field at any one time. The shot clock was originally 45 seconds before it was changed to 60 seconds for 2005.
ESPN2 televised MLL games from the 2003 season until the 2012 season. In 2012, ESPN2 televised three regular season games, the All-Star Game, one semifinal, and the MLL Championship game. MLL games have not been regularly shown on ESPN2 since 2012, however, due to low ratings.
All 42 2012 regular season games also aired on ESPN3.
CBS Sports Network televised thirteen regular season games and one semifinal. In 2013, CBS Sports will show 20 live games. Also in 2013, the MLL and YouTube agreed to an exclusive fifteen-game schedule. Despite these contracts with ESPN and CBS Sports, MLL does not receive any money from the networks for these deals.
Previously, Fox Sports Net televised games in 2001 and 2002. Universal Sports broadcast playoff games not on ESPN in 2009, and carried a Game of the Week in 2010.
Italics indicates a defunct team
East Rutherford, New Jersey (1999–2001)
Secaucus, New Jersey (2001–2004)
Boston, Massachusetts (2004–present)
- New Jersey folded after the 2008 season.
- Chicago relocated after the 2009 season, and then folded after the 2010 season.
- Hamilton has been inactive since the 2014 season.
Warrior, Brine, STX, Maverick, Cascade
East Coast Dyes, Throne Lacrosse, A&R, StringKing
Adrenaline, New Balance, Tomahawk Shades