ISL Amps Up Regular Season With More Matches Among Top Teams in 2022

On Friday, the International Swimming League announced its planned 2022 season schedule.

There are lots of changes for 2022, including a season that begins in June and ends in December (with several breaks for major international meets, an increase from 18 to 24 matches, and a “wildcard” match for the playoff round as well, where teams ranked 3rd through 6th in that round will face off in a top-2-take-all battle for the finale (thereby rendering the prior 6 matches moot).

The ISL has still not given insight into how they form their season schedules, but there is a clear shift this season. Whereas last year, the top two teams, and the only two teams to have won league titles in three seasons, Energy Standard and Cali Condors, didn’t face off in the regular season. This year, they’ll face off three times.

This is a general trend in the schedule, where the top 3 teams, Energy Standard, Cali Condors, and LA Current, face off many times throughout the season.

We were critical of the league last year for not having enough regular season marquee matchups, which ultimately resulted in a fairly dull and uninteresting regular season. That issue has certainly been corrected this year, as the top teams will face off regularly – which, as is true in any sport, will draw the most interest and the best ratings.

In solving that problem, however, the league might have created another. While the schedule is more exciting, it has the same problem with balance. That’s not much of a problem if the teams continue to be as lopsided as they’ve been in the first three seasons, with the same quartet of ‘originals’ making the final every year.

But, on the off chance that there is a shift in the balance of power (which the league hasn’t demonstrated it’s capable of yet), this could impact whether the ‘best’ teams get into the final, or if there is a scheduling advantage for some teams, like the DC Trident, who get to face the woebegone New York Breakers 4 times. If trends continue, that gives the Trident a leg up on, at least, not finishing last in 4 of their 6 matches.

If things are close at the end of the season with a team like Iron, which will have a lot of exciting matches with LA Current and London Roar, they don’t have as many easy point matches.

As the schedule continues to expand, creating schedule balance should become easier. But, at least one problem is solved: last year the regular season lacked both balance and exciting matchups.

Other Observations:

  • The extra matches also means that every team faces off with every other team at least once, which we haven’t seen previously.
  • The New York Breakers have had a final week BYE (off date) in all three seasons since the league expanded to 10 teams and had to use this system (and also didn’t compete at the end of the regular season in season 1, where the European teams took the stage). If the Breakers are at the bottom, though, that doesn’t mean an early exit – they’ll have to stick around for the Wildcard match anyway. LA Current are the other team with a final week BYE – and they’re unlikely to have to do so. The upside of the league for putting good teams on final week BYEs is that two weeks of room and board can be saved for a team and support staff of about 50, which is not insignificant. But the potential for league-table-dramatics in the last week probably outweighs that.
  • In the opening leg in North America, there will only be one match per weekend. Typically, we’ve seen a two-match-per-weekend format. This might help with some match fatigue that we saw in our traffic last season.
  • In the current schedule, a team like the Cali Condors could forfeit all but two matches each season and still advance to the final. I’d like to see more incentives placed upon regular-season standings.
  • In the Playoffs, the current plan has a shift from North America to Asia with just a 6 day gap. That’s going to be tough travel.
2022 ISL Regular Season Matrix
ENS Cali Condors London Roar LA Current Toronto Titans Aqua Centurions Iron DC Trident Tokyo Frog Kings
New York Breakers
ENS x 3 3 2 2 1 2 1 3 1
Cali Condors 3 x 2 2 2 3 1 1 2 2
London Roar 3 2 x 2 1 3 4 1 1 1
LA Current 2 2 2 x 1 1 4 2 2 2
Toronto Titans 2 2 1 1 x 2 1 3 3 3
Aqua Centurions 1 3 3 1 2 x 2 2 2 2
Iron 2 1 4 4 1 2 x 2 1 1
DC Trident 1 1 1 2 3 2 2 x 2 4
Tokyo Frog Kings 3 2 1 2 3 2 1 2 x 2
New York Breakers 1 2 1 2 3 2 1 4 2 x

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B1G Daddy
3 months ago

Has Caeleb been paid yet?

Joel
3 months ago

Why can’t every team play against every other team twice(for example).There is a maths formula, I’m sure, that could work it out.

Troyy
Reply to  Joel
3 months ago

Hey, I don’t suppose you have any gossip about Kaylee and Brendon?? Have they both settled at Griffith after all?

Joel
Reply to  Troyy
3 months ago

I think so. Not 100% sure.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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