The crowd goes wild in Atlanta, during an Atlanta Hustle versus Raleigh Flyers game last season. Photo by Terry Nelson of UltiPhotos.com.
The AUDL released their 2016 regular season schedule, and their own version of a ‘Must Watch’ list of games. But, as of yet, there is no word on which games will be livestreamed via ESPN3 this season. That’s what this is for, to pick which games are most likely to be on the AUDL’s ‘Game of the Week’ series of games that Evan Lepler and co. will be calling.
For the purpose of this, even though there have been times the AUDL has streamed two games in one weekend, I’m going to keep it to one game. I tried as best as I could to avoid teams appearing on the broadcast more than once, giving the AUDL the most options to expose each franchise, and to spread the love across each of the four divisions.
Week 1 (Saturday April 2nd and Sunday 3rd) Austin Sol at Dallas Roughnecks, Saturday April 2nd
What better way to star the season than by showcasing two of the newest teams to the league, and the two teams with some of the splashiest off-season moves. Seeing Jimmy Mickle, Beau Kittredge, Dylan Freechild, Brodie Smith, Kurt Gibson and Cassidy Rassmussen all on the same team will no doubt be the showcase for ESPN3 on Week 1.
Week 2 (Friday April 8th - Sunday April 10th) Jacksonville Cannons at Raleigh Flyers, Saturday April 9th
In a rematch of last season’s South Division finals, the Cannons go back to Raleigh to take on the Flyers. Both rosters have reloaded with top talent, and even with the new additions to their division, look to be favorites for a playoff spot.
Week 3 (Friday April 15th - Sunday April 17th) San Francisco Flamethrowers at San Jose Spiders, Saturday April 16th While Beau, Cassidy, and others may be gone to other teams, this is still the hottest rivalry in the AUDL. For an early season weekend with not much going on in terms of other choices, this would be a great choice.
Week 4 (Saturday April 23rd and Sunday April 24th) Toronto Rush at D.C. Breeze, Saturday April 23rd
Time to get familiar with the Eastern Division, with the always reliable Toronto Rush, and the now-loaded D.C. Breeze. With all of their big roster additions, and even factoring in the games missed by players due to WUGC Team USA commitments, they’re still poised to challenge the Rush for the division.
Week 5 (Saturday April 30th and April 31st) Madison Radicals at Pittsburgh Thunderbirds, Saturday April 30th
While championship weekend is in Madison this season, there’s a strong chance that the Thunderbirds will be the team that represents the Central Division. Their talent pipeline from Pittsburgh En Sabh Nur has only strengthened this off-season, and while Madison has the Hodags, Pitt has been too good as of late.
Week 6 (Friday May 6th and Saturday May 7th) New York Empire at D.C. Breeze, Saturday May 7th
Rather than pick a rematch of Week 1, or Week 3, or a Friday night game, why not show-off the second challenge to the Breeze as they look to climb in their division, the NY Empire. The Empire have added names like Sean Keegan and Chris Kocher, and on top of a strong foundation of returning players, find themselves in a similar position - looking up at the Rush, vying to dethrone them.
Week 7 (Friday May 13th - Sunday May 15th) Chicago Wildfire at Minnesota Wind Chill, Saturday May 14th
The Wildfire are going to be an interesting team this season without Jonathan ‘Goose’ Helton back on the team (he’s now on the D.C. Breeze), their spot as one of the best in the Central Division is up for grabs. Minnesota however is hoping to finally shake off whatever funk has prevented them from entering the elite in the AUDL.
Week 8 (Friday May 20th - Sunday May 22nd) Los Angeles Aviators at San Diego Growlers, Saturday May 21st
Back to California we go, for two teams that are hoping to improve mightily on last season’s performance. The Aviators have been re-signing a large number of their players from last season, especially defensive players, and the Growlers are facing turnover from their Denver-contingent of players but still have a strong core. Both hope to challenge the established-best in the West.
It is very hard to avoid repeats of the top teams in this schedule. 8 weeks into the AUDL season, and I’ve got one in the D.C. Breeze, but could’ve had the Roughnecks showing up multiple times in this schedule, and the same goes for the Cascades, Rush, and other franchises.
Week 9 (Friday May 27th - Sunday May 29th) Dallas Roughnecks at Atlanta Hustle, Saturday May 28th
Another repeat, but the Roughnecks at least haven’t been seen since Week 1, and the Hustle are making their debut. With Austin and Dallas now in the South Division, the division got even more challenging for the Hustle. A win here goes a long way in assuring everyone that Atlanta is still a top team, a loss puts Dallas firmly in the driver’s seat.
Week 10 (Saturday June 4th and Sunday June 5th) Montreal Royal at Ottawa Outlaws, Saturday June 4th
Giving Canada some love! No repeats on TV, plus a chance to see two teams that were getting some great home crowds in action. Much like the Aviators at Growlers game from Week 8, it’s a great chance to see two teams that are hoping to use their second season to truly become threats in their division, and have the potential to do so.
Week 11 (Friday June 10th - Sunday June 12th) Seattle Cascades at Vancouver Riptide, Saturday June 11th
With how well the Cascades did last season, they arguably could be on this list several times - and definitely on this list before now. Especially with how far their USAU counterpart Sockeye did in the series last year, they should be a favorite in their division if not the league. Up until this point though, their best schedule options are either dwarfed by others or come right after other games from their opponents. And the Seattle versus Vancouver rivalry is one of the best, so why not showcase that?
Week 12 (Friday June 17th - Sunday June 19th) Madison Radicals at Minnesota Wind Chill, Friday June 17th OR Almost anything else on the schedule
The benefit to having the Radicals game on TV is that the league gets more exposure for the team that is hosting Championship Weekend. It’s an added plus if the Wind Chill are a more complete team this season than in year’s past. But you could have literally any other game on the schedule that weekend as the live stream option. Week 12, on paper, shapes up to be one of the least exciting weekends in the season. San Francisco versus San Jose, Atlanta versus Austin, or Atlanta versus Dallas are all good options - but all of those teams have been seen at this point, and Austin getting exposure against a different team (see: Week 13) might be the better choice.
Week 13 (Saturday June 25th and Sunday June 26th) Austin Sol at Jacksonville Cannons, Saturday June 25th
With Sol at Cannons, the other new franchise is shown-off, but the sure to be hottest division in the AUDL gets another opportunity to show off their deep competition.
Week 14 (Friday July 1st - Sunday July 3rd) New York Empire at Toronto Rush, Sunday July 3rd
With no Canadian teams playing on Canada Day (July 1st), why not throw the perennially best Canadian team on ESPN3, with their biggest playoff opponent in the Empire on the day before July 4th? I would give second choice to Charlotte Express at the Nashville Nightwatch just to get more teams on ESPN.
Week 15 (Friday July 8th - Sunday July 10th) Raleigh Flyers at Dallas Roughnecks, Saturday July 11th
Time to end the season the way it began, with the Roughnecks. Instead of their in-state rival, this game with last season’s South Division champion Raleigh Flyers has a ton of potential. Either the game is a division finals preview, or a game that could knock one of the teams out depending on the strength of Atlanta, Austin, or Jacksonville. Much like the Week 1 choice, I think this is the obvious pick for this game.
Team’s Left Off ESPN
- Cincinnati Revolution
- Charlotte Express
- Detroit Mechanix
- Indianapolis Alleycats
- Nashville Nightwatch
- Philadelphia Phoenix
I didn’t choose to leave these teams off of the schedule entirely because of where I think they will finish come the end of the season (outside of the playoffs), but instead because of their schedule or seeing other teams for multiple times - much like I wrote for Week 11 about picking the best game for the Cascades. In a perfect world, I think the AUDL would love to have each team appear on the ESPN3 platform at least once. But it’s tough to do when live streaming options (most likely) take a backseat to travel concerns, stadium availability, etc.