The Intrigue in ISL Match 4 Will Not Be in the Win, But in the Battle for 2nd

2020 International Swimming League – Match 4

Heading into match 4 of the 2020 International Swimming League season, we’ve now seen all 10 teams race. This means that, starting on Monday, we can really dial in on the bigger picture and which teams will advance into the semi-finals at the end of November.

We know Cali is going to win this meet, unless they sent several swimmers home without telling us or there was a quiet outbreak of coronavirus in the bubble. So, the team battle won’t really be that interesting.

With no announced plan by the ISL about how they will seed those semi-finals, we aren’t really sure what seeding means either.

But the best storyline in this meet will actually be the race for 2nd as it will have a huge impact on which teams advance to the semifinals.

After Match 3, we can confidently say that, barring some miraculous turn of fortune, the Aqua Centurions are unlikely to finish in the top 8 of the regular season and advance to the semi-finals. They’ve been 4th in each of the 5 meets in franchise history, and while their men have performed well, their women are just too far out of things at this point to make a run.

Based on the information available so far, that leaves 3 teams fighting for 2 spots in the semi-finals: Iron, New York Breakers, and DC Trident.

Iron have a huge advantage because they finished 2nd in Match 2, which was a match with only 1 finals-worthy team. In terms of scheduling, they caught a break, especially as compared to the Breakers, who have to face Energy Standard and Cali Condors, the league’s two best teams, relentlessly throughout the season.

DC were 3rd in their first meet, and the Breakers were 4th. But, all we really learned from that is that DC is better than the worst team in the league (Aqua), and the Breakers are much worse than the 3 best teams in the league (Cali, Energy Standard, Current).

Monday will start to shake out what that really means, though it’s an easy path for the Breakers, because of scheduling, to beat the Trident on Tuesday and still finish lower than the Trident in the season standings.

When we did a comparison of week 1 times between those 3 teams, the Breakers were ahead of Iron, who were ahead of Trident heading into skins, but Iron had better skins performances. If Iron can pull off a win in the men’s medley relay, especially, over Cali, that’s huge. The Breakers will be rooting for the Condors in those events to ‘neutralize’ any advantage in that choice, because the Breakers’ medley relays aren’t very good and probably won’t win.

With that as the backdrop, here are the 3 biggest things to watch in Match 4 of the ISL.

Michael Andrew Needs to Bounce Back

Michael Andrew started off very poorly in the 2019 ISL season, and got progressively better (though he didn’t ever seem to fully find his rhythm). This season, we again saw him struggle in meet 1, ranking just 30th in MVP scoring with 18 MVP points.

And it’s not like we can blame it on his schedule – we saw him swim only 7 races across 2 days, 5 of those were only 50 meters, and he wasn’t good even in his first event.

If he can get squared away, suddenly the Breakers have a real threat in any skins race, and that gives them a chance of jumping Iron for 2nd in this meet.

The Breakers lost captain Jeanette Ottesen, who went home to be with her daughter after week 1. She didn’t swim all-that-well last week, though, and so the net addition of Alicja Tchorz joining the bubble to reinforce the backstrokers, where the Breakers finished 7th and 8th in the 50 and the 100 in match 1, could be a net-positive gain.

Cali’s Jackpots

Cali led the way to a whopping 83 total Jacked swims in Match 1, including stealing points from several breakers.

With match 4 being so lopsided, with Cali looming large over the rest of the league, we’ll see how the other 3 teams react. In balanced meets, there is less Jackpot strategy involved, but here, the smart teams, where they know Jackpots are coming, might choose to rest better swimmers so they can go after other races.

That’s because if your Jackpotted, finishing 5th or 8th still scores the same number of points: 0.

Expect this strategy to happen in the breaststrokes, as teams run away from the Jackpot machine that is Lilly King, and with teams trying to shield themselves from Caeleb Dressel.

Zach Apple

Zach Apple was a monster in the Trident’s first meet, and helped DC to some great relay performances, including a win in the mixed 400 free relay.

In fact, his swims were comparable to those of Caeleb Dressel, who last season was the best swimmer in the league.

The head-to-head matchup I’m most looking forward to at this meet is Apple versus Dressel in those sprint freestyles. Besides the implications for the meet and money and the league, that could be a preview of what is expected to be a loaded field at the US Olympic Trials next summer.

Margalis vs. Hosszu

The matchup I’m next-most looking forward to is Melanie Margalis of the Condors versus Katinka Hosszu of Iron. In week 1, Margalis swam really well, while Hosszu didn’t. But Hosszu still handled business in her 2 historically-best events, the 200 fly and 400 IM.

Against Margalis in the 400 IM, and Cali’s Hali Flickinger in the 200 fly, Hosszu will need to be better if she wants to grab any wins. The place for her to show it is against Margalis, who is vying to take the title from Hosszu as the ISL’s top female IMer.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sun Yangs Hammer
1 month ago

I think previously people had overestimated how suited USPRT was for ISL type competition. Especially after being out of the water for awhile MA has less base too work with and wasn’t exactly an endurance swimmer to begin with. Swimming NCAA seems to be an advantage here.

Reply to  Sun Yangs Hammer
1 month ago

He also seemed to be doing everything but swimming on his Instagram.

Reply to  Entgegen
1 month ago

This is my guess. I think USRPT still works for this application, but he’s seemed…unfocused…for a few months.

Hopefully last weekend was a wakeup call and he gets right in time for Tokyo.

Reply to  Sun Yangs Hammer
1 month ago

I think he may have had a break up recently so that must be tough as well

1 month ago

Iron might have a good run here if basseto keeps up his speed as probably he will dominate the 50/100 back

1 month ago

Will the college team rankings be coming out soon? Excited to see where everyone is going to be placed.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of 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, …

Read More »