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:
- Los Angeles Current: GM Lenny Krayzelburg (Los Angeles, CA)
- DC Trident: GM Kaitlin Sandeno (Washington D.C.)
- Cali Condors: GM Jason Lezak (San Francisco, CA)
- New York Breakers: GM Tina Andrew (New York, NY)
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 Murphy. Ledecky 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.