As we approach the International Swimming League (ISL) season finale on December 20th and 21st in Las Vegas, Nevada, there are going to be some big names missing from the lineups. With no known mechanisms yet for athletes to change meets in-season (and no real incentive for teams to do so, given that everyone is on a one-year contract), swimmers from Iron, Aqua Centurions, the New York Breakers, and the DC Trident have all completed their 2019 ISL seasons.
This stands as a pressure point where the divergence of the ISL from the more traditional championship format is really noticeable – because it’s a team-based competition, all of the stars won’t be there on the big stage. This is how it works in most major league-based sports; for example, Lebron James, the most famous basketball player on earth, missed the playoffs last season in the NBA in his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
But this is part of where the drama lies in this format.
In year 1, there was a pretty big imbalance in the league – aside from a little noise made by Iron, none of the eliminated teams really ever had a shot at advancing to the final. The league will have to be careful in year 2 to develop a system to prevent all of the best athletes from those teams from jumping ship to another team in the offseason, thereby widening that gap and rendering the regular season rather meaningless. In the first season, salaries, for the most part, just weren’t enough to overwhelm the potential earnings from being on ‘the winning team,’ and even more athletes will figure that out in year 2.
Below, we present the ‘all eliminated team’ of the best swimmers who won’t participate in the ISL finale. The team is highlighted by some huge names from Iron. This team was loaded with top-end talent, but lacked the depth to beat Energy Standard and London Roar in Europe – which showed up most painfully in their relays.
Note: one prodigious name missing from this list is Katie Ledecky. In the traditional championship format, she’s arguably the best swimmer in the world, and without much argument a universal top 3 female swimmer in the world. But with no 800 and 1500 on the lineup, her value is diminished a little, though she’s certainly a swimmer who would be a significant scoring addition to any team. Regardless, her absence from this list is mostly based on the fact that she only raced 1 of the 3 regular season ISL meets.
There are a few other swimmers who, with more participation, probably would have made this list, like Kira Toussaint, who only swam in 1 meet in the regular season for Iron.
Event wins for eliminated teams:
- Iron – 33
- DC Trident – 15
- Aqua Centurions – 7
- New York Breakers – 2
2019 ISL All-Eliminated Team
1. Katinka Hosszu, Iron – Katinka Hosszu wears many hats for Iron. She is a partial owner of the team, she is the team’s general manager, she is the team’s captain, and, most importantly, she is a star swimmer. One of only 2 match MVPs eliminated this season (along with her teammate Vlad Morozov), Hosszu won a total of 9 individual races in 3 meets in her inaugural ISL season. That ties her for the 2nd-most in the league behind only Energy Standard’s Sarah Sjostrom.
2. Vlad Morozov, Iron – Morozov, like Hosszu, won an MVP award this season – taking the title in Lewisville with 43.5 points (the lowest point total for an MVP this season). He won a total of 6 races in his ISL debut, including twice winning the skins races in Lewisville and London. His absence is fairly significant as it prevents him from playing ‘spoiler’ in the meet-ending skins race in Las Vegas. He and Cali Condors’ Caeleb Dressel are probably the two most capable skins swimmers in the field, and without Morozov we lose the possibility from the drama of a big name (Dressel, Chalmers, Manaudou, Proud) missing out on the semi-finals, which could have been a huge points swing.
3. Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Iron – Kromowidjojo was the only swimmer in the regular season, male or female, to go undefeated in skins competition, winning in Lewisville, Budapest, and London. Her 24.19 in the final round in London was the fastest women’s skins time in a final of the season by a pretty substantial margin. She only won 1 other individual race this season, the 50 free in Budapest, but those triple skins points add up quickly.
4. Michael Andrew, New York Breakers – In spite of expectations that had Michael Andrew as almost the perfect swimmer for this ISL format, he struggled a little in the Breakers’ first two meets. He didn’t win any races in either Lewisville or Budapest, and had some pretty surprising finishes – including 7th in the 100 fly in Budapest, the first race of the meet where there shouldn’t have been a fatigue factor anyway. But in the U.S. derby meet in Maryland, he really came around and showed what he can be in this format. Even without much help from his relays (in fact he actually lost half-a-point when one of his relays failed to hit the time minimum), he finished 5th in MVP scoring, and he picked up a win when he tied with Matt Grevers in the 50 back.
5. Andreas Vazaios, DC Trident – Already named as one of our breakout swimmer of the 2019 ISL season, Vazaios only won 2 races, the 200 IM in Naples and College Park, this season. But he seemed to show up in crucial moments regularly for the Trident, including top 3 finishes in the 200 fly at all of his meets – a race that on the men’s side, many teams seemed to struggle to fill this season.
6. Alia Atkinson, Iron – Known primarily as a great breaststroker, where she’s a World Champion and World Record holder, Atkinson showed those who don’t know it her versatility in the ISL season. While all 5 of her wins came in sprint breaststroke races, she also added some better-than-last depth in the 200 breaststroke and 50 fly for Iron.
7. Ian Finnerty, DC Trident – On a team that was absolutely stacked with male breaststrokers (Kevin Cordes, Cody Miller), Finnerty was the only one who got a win. In fact, he got 2 wins, taking both the 100 and 200 breaststroke, and in the process set the American Record in the 100 (56.29). He had the fastest 200 breaststroke of the season, and was within a tenth of Adam Peaty for the fastest 100 of the season. Finnerty finished 7th in MVP scoring in the U.S. Derby.
8. Siobhan Haughey, DC Trident – Siobhan Haughey has been breaking Hong Kong record after Hong Kong record this season, and was huge for her team in the U.S. derby when she made a surprise finals appearance in the skins race, which wound up being enough to nudge them past the New York Breakers for 3rd place in their last meet of the season. We knew Haughey was a good swimmer from her collegiate days and the World Championships, where she finished 4th in the 200 free, but the range and versatility she’s shown this season should make her a hot commodity in the offseason.
9. Breno Correia, Aqua Centurions – Breno Correia was a last-minute sub into the 200 free for Aqua Centurions in the season opener in Indianapolis, when teams were still trying to make sense of the format and what they had on their rosters, and jumped at the opportunity by winning the 200 free. He then won again in Naples. He finished 8th in the MVP standings in Indianapolis, and while he was a beneficiary a little bit of being strong in events that his “Group” was generally weaker in, he was a pleasant surprise all season long.
10. Nicolo Martinenghi, Aqua Centurions – After dealing with some injuries over the last few seasons, Nicolo Martinenghi‘s stock is again rising just in time for the Olympic Games. He won the 50 breaststroke in his team’s first two meets (even with the DC Trident’s lethal breaststroke group present), and was the Aqua Centurions’ best overall scorer through those first 2 meets. On Thursday, he popped back into a long course pool and broke an Italian Record in the 100 breaststroke.
11. Bethany Galat, DC Trident – Galat is the only swimmer on this list who didn’t win a race this season, but she sure did chew up a lot of valuable lanespace for the Trident. Not only did she excel in her standard breaststroke and IM races, but she also thrice swam the 200 fly, including 4th place finishes in both Indianapolis and Naples. Galat is the kind of swimmer whom the foundation of this league will be built upon if there’s going to be long term success – not necessarily going to win a ton of races (though she’s certainly capable), but will swim a lot of races and bring depth to the table.