ISL Announces Four American Teams, All Short Course Meter Competitions

The International Swimming League (ISL) has announced its four U.S.-based franchises: the Los Angeles Current, DC Trident, Cali Condors and New York Breakers.

The American teams were announced with the following General Managers:

That confirms our report last week that the four would own the inaugural American teams.

The ISL says its meet will begin on October 4-5, 2019, with meets “almost every weekend” through November 24. League owner Konstantin Grigorishin said in today’s press release that the “regular season” will consist of a series of short course meters meets each featuring 2 American and 2 European teams. Then each continent will have their own meet – all four American teams competing against each other while all four European teams compete.

The season will wrap up with finals in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 20-21. The top four clubs (between the four American squads and the four European ones already announced) will compete for the league championship in a newly-built pool in the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Specific rosters for the American clubs have not yet been announced, but the ISL press conference did announce a handful of athletes already committed as “ambassadors” for the league: Katie Ledecky, Nathan Adrian, Simone Manuel and Ryan MurphyLedecky and Adrian were both involved in today’s press conference, announcing their support of the ISL.

“I’m really excited to be an ambassador for the International Swimming League,” Ledecky said, calling it a “new era” for swimming, and in particular, women in swimming. She pointed to team GMs Sandeno and Andrew as a step forward for women in the higher levels of the sport, as well as the gender equality on team rosters.

“There’s just something about competing for a team title that can just elicit great performances from an individual, even when they’re tired,” Adrian said, expressing his excitement for the league and the different energy he says it will have compared to the more individually-focused format usually found at the sport’s highest level.

The European clubs have already announced fairly full lineups, including grabbing most of the top Canadian talent, leaving the U.S. teams to battle over the top professional U.S. talents on the market.

Asked whether that was putting American teams at a disadvantage in recruiting, Lezak said “I don’t really see that. We started this thing all in a fair playing field where we started recruiting athletes at the same time.” He referenced the territory restrictions: American teams have a two-month window of exclusive ability to recruit American athletes. Each European club has its own territory, as well, with an exclusive window to recruit athletes.

More notes from the press conference:

  • Asked about the specific financial model of the league, Grigorishin expressed his support for a salary cap to restrict owners from buying the best team. Currently, the league doesn’t have a “salary cap” – Grigorishin says each team has an equal amount of “appearance money” to dole out between athletes. In the future, he says, league owners will have to decide on salary cap rules.
  • Grigorishin also reiterated that the league will share 50% of profits with athletes, either directly or through the clubs.
  • Andrew was asked if it’s true that her club will sign Marco Koch and Marius Kusch, but wouldn’t confirm that officially yet. The teams should be making roster announcements over the next few weeks.
  • Grigorishin said the ISL has “no principal conflict” with FINA, emphasizing that FINA is in charge of swimming governance at all levels, while the ISL is very specifically focused on the world’s elite.
  • Meets will all be short course meters. Originally, at the London summit in December, it was announced that the host team would choose the course. We asked what brought about the change to all short course meters competition, but did not receive a response.
  • Three of the European teams have been highly-publicized: the London Roar, Iron Swim Budapest and the Energy Standard team, which Grigorishin said is working to base out of France. But Grigorishin revealed that the fourth will be based in Rome, Italy, and named the Aqua Centurions. Originally, a German team called ONEflow Aquatic was announced, but we reported last week that the club wouldn’t be involved in the first year of the ISL. Grigorishin’s answer about the Rome team confirms that, but the press conference did not answer our question about what happened with the German team’s involvement.

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3 years ago

What exactly is the role of the “General Manager”? Is it really going to be similar to a GM in pro football/baseball/basketball? If so, those are some…interesting?…choices. Seems right now they’re just figureheads for the teams.

Also, I’m assuming the swimmers will basically be training with their teams, and just flying in to represent the team whenever needed? That’s a hell of a weekly commute for Kusch (although maybe he’s used to it?)!

3 years ago

How does a swimmer go about getting recruited? Or is it through secret calls and handshakes?

Reply to  Dmcgee
3 years ago

Dmcgee – I’m not sure what your definition of “secret calls and handhsakes” is (I mean, I don’t think that athletes are being recruited via a party line with all of the other teams listening in), but from what I understand, teams call athletes they’re interested in, and if athletes are interested, they call teams, similarly to how one might expect it to go down. Don’t think there’s any real magic to it.

Swim fan123
3 years ago

Who thought it was a good idea for Tina Andrew to describe the sport as sexy? And I still feel like there’s a lot of missing information. Like what is Paris Jacobs role in this?

The Kraken
Reply to  Swim fan123
3 years ago

Yeah that was a really weird choice of words by her

3 years ago

As much as I hate to say it, this will probably fail because of the lack of excitement in a sport such as swimming. The AAF failed very quickly simply because there was not enough money or interest. If we really want to allow for opportunities for swimmers to make money, the best way unfortunately is to introduce sports betting. From an ethical standpoint I despise this idea, but economically, it is the only feasible thing to do.

Reply to  Anonymous
3 years ago

The AAF failure was actually more complex than ‘not enough money or interest.’ I’ve read a great deal about why that league failed, and what it basically came down to was that they turned over too much interest to a financial investor who wound up believing that the league couldn’t work without current NFL players – and the NFL Players Association balked at risking current players on the league. So he singlehandedly shut the whole thing down after spending about $70 million out of $250 million. AAF actually had good-enough television ratings and solid attendance for most of the teams.

If the ISL fails, it won’t be because the primary financial investor loses faith in the league at the first… Read more »

Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

I just don’t see a way that the ISL can generate money in any way except for ticket sales and sponsorships (as of now), and the level of money that would translate to divided by the number of swimmers involved does not seem like a very profitable plan. Ultimately, the only thing that matters to the league is going to be how much money they are bringing in, and unless there is something I’m not accounting for, it doesn’t seem like much.

Maybe you turn the ISL into a sort of a reality TV show, and create fake drama and feuds and relationships to make the sport more “exciting”. Extremely athletic bodies and out of the pool drama that… Read more »

Old Rocket Swimmer
Reply to  Anonymous
3 years ago

Ryan Lochte as host?

Reply to  Anonymous
3 years ago

I give it one season at best. I cannot see how the top swimmers could be interested; especially going into an Olympic year and potentially turning their training upside down. Plus, I really struggle to see where the money will be coming from.

3 years ago

It’s great to see the Americans swimming SCM, but anyone else rather see the international stars swim SCY?

SuperSwimmer 2000
3 years ago

How long until ISL becomes “the man,” and the SwimSwam commentariat turns its pitchforks on it? I give it about half a season.

Reply to  SuperSwimmer 2000
3 years ago

I give it less than that. I think if people knew all of what was going on, they’d already be jaded by it. Want to guess whose team decided that the format would be SCM only?? Our benevolent leader and oligarch of a different flavor…

3 years ago

The question I want answered is who are the top Canadian talents already recruited to European clubs?

Reply to  AvidSwimFan
3 years ago

I just realized that this is what all those “Oleksiak heads to Team Energy standard” mean. 😂. Don’t count my stupidity against me. 🤦🏾‍♀️

Techniq Jeff
3 years ago

Don’t know about you folks, but I would sure like to see Peaty rock a 100 Breast in yards… just one time… please…

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Techniq Jeff
3 years ago

I think you’d be disappointed, given his pullouts. Fastest of all time, no doubt, but wouldn’t be nearly as much separation from the crowd as LCM.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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