Everything You Need to Know About the 2019-20 NLL Season

Corey KnappContributor INovember 25, 2019

The Calgary Roughnecks and Buffalo Bandits reached the NLL Finals last season, with Calgary winning its third league championship.
The Calgary Roughnecks and Buffalo Bandits reached the NLL Finals last season, with Calgary winning its third league championship.NLL

The National Lacrosse League begins its 34th season on Friday, with two games to ignite Faceoff Weekend. The NLL's 13 teams will play from Black Friday until the regular season concludes at the end of April, and the playoffs will run throughout May.

The biggest changes this season are a couple of new franchises as well as a new division alignment, with the introduction of the North Division to go with the East and West.

Below, find everything you need to know about the upcoming NLL season, including the new teams and divisions, schedules and matchups, playoff format, highlights, players to watch, and how to watch and stream every game live all season.

    

Expansion Teams

The NLL grows from 11 teams last season to 13 this season. The New York Riptide is an expansion team and will play its home games on Long Island. The Halifax Thunderbirds arrive after relocating from Rochester in the offseason and will feature much of the same roster as a year ago.

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The Nova Scotia team became the fifth Canadian team in the NLL, joining Calgary, Saskatchewan, Toronto and Vancouver. The NLL filled its Rochester void quickly, awarding an expansion franchise to the city. The new team keeps the same Rochester Knighthawks name but will debut a new identity, logo and colors.

Both expansion teams participated in the expansion draft this summer, featuring a pool of available players from every team in the league. Then each of them had the top picks in each round of the NLL entry draft in September.

    

NLL Divisions and Playoff Qualification

With the additional teams, the NLL expands from two to three divisions this season. The Riptide will play in the East Division, while the Thunderbirds and Knighthawks will play in the North. Two teams in the East last season, Toronto and Buffalo, round out the North Division. The realignment did not affect teams in the West Division.

     

East Division

Georgia Swarm
New York Riptide
New England Black Wolves
Philadelphia Wings

     

West Division

Calgary Roughnecks
Colorado Mammoth
San Diego Seals
Saskatchewan Rush
Vancouver Warriors

      

North Division

Buffalo Bandits
Halifax Thunderbirds
Rochester Knighthawks
Toronto Rock

Also with the realignment, the playoff format changed. Playoff matchups prior to the NLL Finals will no longer be limited to teams from the same division. It will be a pure bracket-style format among the eight teams that make the playoffs.

The three division winners will automatically qualify for the playoffs and receive the top three seeds, with the No. 1 seed going to the division winner with the best overall record. The three second-place teams in every division will make the playoffs and earn seeds four through six, with the team with the best record among them earning the No. 4 seed. The final two wild-card spots will go to the two remaining teams with the best record.

The single-elimination first round will match up Nos. 1 vs. 8, Nos. 2 vs. 7, Nos. 3 vs. 6 and Nos. 4 vs. 5. The second round/semifinals will feature those winners and also be single-elimination. The NLL Finals will be a best-of-three series. The team with the better record in the regular season will host Game 1 and the if-necessary Game 3.

    

Faceoff Weekend Matchups, Full Season Schedule

During the 18-game NLL regular season, each team will play every other team in the league at least once. Teams in the same division will play each other at least twice. You can learn more about the schedule design here.

The NLL season opens with its annual Faceoff Weekend. On Friday, the Colorado Mammoth host the Saskatchewan Rush at 9:30 p.m. (all times Eastern). Half an hour later, defending NLL Cup champion Calgary Roughnecks opens on the road against the Vancouver Warriors.

On Saturday, the new Rochester Knighthawks debut against the Georgia Swarm at 7 p.m. The other new teams debut the following weekend against each other. The Halifax Thunderbirds host the New York Riptide at 6 p.m. on Dec. 7.

A couple months into the season will mark a special occasion for the league. The San Diego Seals are set to play the Colorado Mammoth in Las Vegas during Super Bowl weekend. The game will be at 10 p.m. on Feb. 1 and will be the first NLL game played in Las Vegas. Read more about the NLL Las Vegas game here.

Also new this season will be the Alterna Cup, an in-season competition among the five Canadian teams in the NLL. During their normally scheduled league games, Calgary, Halifax, Saskatchewan Toronto and Vancouver will compete for the cup, which will be awarded to the team that finishes with the highest winning percentage against the rest of the teams in Canada. Read more about the 2019-20 Alterna Cup here.

For the complete 2019-20 NLL schedule, go here.

     

How to Watch, Stream Every NLL Game

Fans can watch every NLL game all season on B/R Live, which is available to stream on desktop, mobile and connected devices. To celebrate the start of the season, the first two weekends will be free to watch. The free games are listed below along with direct links to watch.

     

Friday, Nov. 29

Rush at Mammoth, 9:30 p.m. | Watch on B/R Live

Roughnecks at Warriors, 10 p.m. | Watch on B/R Live

      

Saturday, Nov. 30

Swarm at Knighthawks, 7 p.m. | Watch on B/R Live

     

Saturday, Dec. 7

Riptide at Thunderbirds, 6 p.m. | Watch on B/R Live

New England Black Wolves at Toronto Rock, 7 p.m. | Watch on B/R Live

San Diego Seals at Buffalo Bandits, 7 p.m. | Watch on B/R Live

B/R Live's NLL coverage this season will also include a pregame show that begins 30 minutes before every game.

Fans can stream the NLL on B/R Live with the B/R Live Pass, available in a monthly or annual subscription that gives you access to watch nearly all of the live sports on B/R Live. You can also purchase individual NLL games on B/R Live on a pay-per-view basis.

To subscribe to watch NLL with the B/R Live pass, go here. And for more information on the B/R Live Pass, go here.

    

Highlights and Players to Watch During the 2019-20 NLL Season

A handful of players who had huge seasons a year ago are back for more as they look to lead their teams to the league title. Calgary's Dane Dobbie led the league with 115 points (47 goals, 68 assists) and earned the NLL MVP award.

A torn ACL ended Austin Staats' 2019 season early, but the Seals star still put up big enough numbers (32 goals and 29 assists) to claim NLL Rookie of the Year. He'll be back this year looking to completely take over the league.

Black Wolves forward Callum Crawford led the NLL in goals last year, pouring in 48 in 16 games while also adding 61 assists to finish with 109 points, second only to Dobbie.

Mark Matthews led one of the most dangerous attacks in the league last season, tallying 41 goals and 64 assists for the Rush. After an early exit in the playoffs, Matthews and Saskatchewan are ready to bounce back.

Like Saskatchewan, Georgia lost its playoff opener at home, and the Swarm will have its hopes set on a much brighter finish to this season. And everything with the Swarm starts with Lyle Thompson, who scored 43 goals last season, third in the league, and added 62 assists.