The lights go down in Minnesota before the game begins. Photo by Alex Fraser of UltiPhotos.com.
There was a time about 2 years ago where it looked like the AUDL was the lesser of the two semi-professional models for ultimate. It looked like the MLU was on their way to success.
Their expansion seemed to be happening too fast, with not enough money to back it up. Players in major cities who were winning college and club championships either didn't have a team to call their own, or were playing for the opposing league. That opposing league by the way was flying high with the talent they had, and the brand they were building - including with their own live-streaming service.
Now an ultimate-world without the AUDL seems like some distant, unimaginable hellscape that I don't want to be apart of.
And the MLU is around too, I guess. Even though the league itself doesn't seem to be part of some long-term or even somewhere-in-between-term outlook for ultimate right now, they're still doing great things (like the Rainmakers having both Fiona McKibben and Kate Kingery of Seattle Riot as co-coaches or their youth outreach events).
All of the problems the AUDL were thought to be having in the past have now become a strength for the league. Expansion in the West and South has brought the league into markets that the MLU hasn't set foot in. The influx of money into the league, especially from owners of the new franchises, has meant that talent flocks to the league. And the contracts with ESPN3 for live-streaming has brought a class and professionalism to their presentation.
This offseason has been all of that. And it's shown off the league's staying power.
Do they still have problems? Of course. Just read Beau Kittredge's latest blog post on Skyd Magazine - he mentions a few. The AUDL is still having trouble attracting business partners, even though the MLU seemingly has no issue with that. USAU still isn't keen to partner with the league, at all, and has their sights set on the league with a potential shift in club/Triple Crown Tour dates.
Both of those problems could be a huge hassle for the league. But for now, the league looks to be on the right course.
The unfortunate (but necessary) contraction in Rochester aside, it's been quite the offseason. Here's hoping the 2016 season lives up to the hype.