While we’ll always offer a tip of the cap to sustained excellence, something new wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Some of the responsibility for that sameness lies with where the power lies.
Major sports leagues move the viewer needle, which translates into all of the attention and the primo broadcast spots. But wouldn’t it be awesome to see an up-and-coming league steal some of that thunder?
There are some incredibly promising sports alternatives in the pipeline. Here’s a look at some new, semi-new, and/or much-anticipated sports leagues that we can’t wait to bet on.
National Women’s Hockey League
This one is already up and running, but it needs some more love headed in its direction. As we’ve all seen at the Olympic Games and NHL All-Star festivities, women’s hockey is outstanding. The athletes that take the ice are incredible, and the games tend to be rather intense and captivating.
The NWHL was born in 2015 with four teams, It has since expanded to a total of six with five squads sprinkled across the US with one here in Canada.
- Boston Pride
- Buffalo Beauts
- Connecticut Whale
- Metropolitan Riveters (Monmouth Junction, NJ)
- Minnesota Whitecaps
- Toronto Six
The regular season has varied between 16-24 games, followed by season-ending playoffs and the Isobel Cup finals. The name of the trophy is a nod to Lady Isobel, the daughter of Lord Stanley, the man who donated the most iconic trophy in the world of sports, the Stanley Cup. The Pride won the inaugural title, and there has yet to be a repeat or two-time winner.
If betting will help this league gain even more traction, then sign us up. You can find NWHL games on Twitch, and they are absolutely worth taking the time to check out. Here’s to hoping that this league will become one of the biggest sports growth stories of the next decade.
Premier Lacrosse League
The PLL, founded by lacrosse legend Paul Rabil, began play in 2019 as a direct competitor to MLL. The format calls for a 14-week tour to be played across 12 major cities. At its founding, there were six teams involved, but PLL has since expanded to eight clubs.
- Archers Lacrosse Club
- Atlas Lacrosse Club
- Cannons Lacrosse Club
- Chaos Lacrosse Club
- Chrome Lacrosse Club
- Redwoods Lacrosse Club
- Waterdogs Lacrosse Club
- Whipsnakes Lacrosse Club
The first league championship was won by the Whipsnakes, and they followed that up with another victory in 2020. Matt Rambo took home the first MVP award in league history with teammate Zed Williams winning the following year.
PLL made a point of offering better player salaries. At least partially inspired by that, the PLL and MLL agreed to merge in the latter part of 2020. There’s now one place to see the top lacrosse stars battle it out, so hopefully, that will translate into even more fans.
At the youth levels, lacrosse participation has been surging, and it’s not too hard to see why. The game is a ton of fun and filled with action. That’s a mix that can bring plenty of bettors to the window as well.
Big 3 Basketball
Basketball is already one of the biggest draws for online sportsbooks, but it doesn’t have to begin and end with NCAA basketball moneylines or daily NBA point spreads. There’s room for upstart leagues to make some noise.
Big 3 Basketball is doing just that and then some. Founded in part by entertainment icon Ice Cube, the Big 3 started to play in 2017. This is a three-on-three ball at its most entertaining with innovative scoring rules such as the 4-point shot, a bring-the-fire 1-on-1 challenge rule in which the winner gets the call, and more.
Fans of the old-school video game NBA Jam will love this league, which has evolved from a curiosity into a quality product with a big following. The players on the court aren’t nobodies either. We’re talking Hall-of-Famers, All Stars, and World Champs.
This league is filled with star power. Over on the sidelines, here are some of the names who have served as coaches for Big 3.
- Gary Payton
- Michael Cooper
- Nate Archibald
- Rick Barry
- Reggie Theus
- Rick Mahorn
- George Gervin
- Charles Oakley
- Nancy Liebermann
- Dr. J
- Kenyon Martin
- Lisa Leslie
Coaches are cool and all, but it’s players that put butts in seats. Fear not, the Big 3 hasn’t lacked for talent by any stretch. Participants have included:
- Greg Oden
- Rashard Lewis
- Josh Smith
- Gilbert Arenas
- Mike Bibby
- Eddy Curry
- Carlos Boozer
- Quentin Richardson
- Chris “Birdman” Anderson
- Amare Stoudemire
- Jason Richardson
- Nate Robinson
- Jason Terry
- Joe Johnson
- Al Jefferson
As a bonus, Clyde Drexler, one of the most electrifying NBA players of all time, serves as commissioner. Big 3 has become a really big deal in a short time, and there’s nothing to suggest that the momentum will be going south. Betting opportunities on this wildly entertaining sport would be nothing short of amazing.
The Basketball Tournament
Still hungry for hoops? The Basketball Tournament (aka TBT) is here to fill the void in the summer months. It’s a winner-take-all, $2 million guaranteed tournament. In a nutshell, it’s a mash-up of March Madness and an NCAA All-Star Game. Speaking of the latter, the most recent edition was perhaps the best in decades.
There’s a real good reason for that. It uses the Elam ending, which is a unique way of finishing games not based on a time clock. Once a certain amount of time is left in the game, the clock is turned off and a “target” score is set. Each team then fights to hit that target score first. You might recognize it from its use in the NBA All-Star game.
Every game during TBT ends in that fashion. Here are some more details.
- 64-team, single-elimination tournament open to all
- Teams of elite college alumni and average players can apply.
- They get to decide how the $2 million winner take all prize will be distributed
- Regionals followed by Championship Week in Dayton
- Fanbase gets 10% of prize pool
- Alumni teams include Syracuse, Ohio St., Kentucky, Marquette, VCU, St. Mary’s
In short, this is a very competitive tournament featuring a bunch of talented and motivated squads. You’ll see alumni from major schools and plenty of top pros from overseas. It’s worth watching, and you can now do so on ESPN every summer.
Would it be worth betting on it? You bet it would.
Canadian Elite Basketball League
Another exciting basketball option can be found much closer to home. The CEBL was founded in 2019. It was six teams at the start but a seventh has since joined. Teams play a 20-game regular-season schedule from May through August, followed by postseason invites for six teams. Here are the current franchises and home arenas.
|Edmonton Stingers||Edmonton Expo Centre||Edmonton, AB|
|Fraser Valley Bandits||Langley Events Centre||Langley, BC|
|Guelph Nighthawks||Sleeman Centre||Guelph, ON|
|Hamilton Honey Badgers||FirstOntario Centre||Hamilton, ON|
|Ottawa Blackjacks||TD Place Arena||Ottawa, ON|
|Niagara River Lions||Meridian Centre||St. Catharines, ON|
|Saskatchewan Rattlers||SaskTel Centre||Saskatoon, SK|
The overall goal of the league is to showcase homegrown talent. To that end, teams are required to dedicate at least 70% of their roster space to Canadian players.
While still a newer league that’s looking to maintain its footing, the competition level has been good. There’s a very strong appetite for hoops, and this is another league that helps to fill the void in what can be relatively slow months on the sporting calendar.
The CEBL should continue to catch on, and being able to bet on CEBL games would only help in that regard.
Street League Skateboarding
The annual X Games on ESPN have been going strong for 20+ years. That wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t a solid amount of interest in extreme sports. Wouldn’t it be awesome if there were even more ways to follow the athletic daredevils of the world? There is via an intriguing league that’s beginning to hit its stride.
Street League Skateboarding traces its roots back to 2010. Founded by Rob Dyrdek and Brian Atlas, the goal was to promote the sport while setting up an international competition circuit. It has turned out to be an under-the-radar hit with several successful world tours under its belt to date and hopefully many more to come.
- Men’s and women’s competitions in SLS pro
- SLS picks open for those with great tricks and clips
- Trick of the year competition
Judged events can be a little tricky from a wagering perspective, but this is absolutely something that could catch on even further – and potentially open the doors to even more extreme sports leagues. Who wouldn’t want to place a prop bet on the best trick, highest air, or best vert drop-in?
International Swimming League
Outside of the diehard fans, Olympic sports just don’t get anywhere near the year-round attention that they deserve. We all ‘ooh and aah’ every couple of years for the Winter and Summer games, but then we move on to other pursuits as these sports go by the wayside. Someone should work on rectifying that situation.
The folks behind the International Swimming League are doing their part. It’s a team-based international competition that began in 2019. The league is backed by Konstantin Griorishin and Daniel Hoffman, a Russian-Ukrainian energy mogul, and a former CIA operative respectively, both of whom have big plans.
It’s much more than a vanity project. The league debuted with eight teams and has since expanded to 10. It started off with a seven-event pro series featuring top international and Olympic stars. Future plans call for the schedule to expand to 20+ events across the globe. Current teams in the ISL are:
- DC Trident
- LA Current
- New York Breakers
- Cali Condors (San Francisco)
- Toronto Titans
- Energy Standard (Paris)
- London Roar
- Team Iron (Budapest)
- Aqua Centurions (Rome)
- Tokyo Frog Kings
Individual matches are comprised of four teams and take place for two days. All of the standard competitions that Olympic viewers are familiar with are represented, such as breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle, backstroke, and team relay competitions. The atmosphere at events has been described as an American Gladiators-style fan experience.
For the inaugural season, it was Energy Standard on top of the board, followed by the London Roar and Cali Condors. In 2020, the Condors finished up in first place, followed Energy Standard and the Roar. The LA Current took fourth place in both seasons. The ISL has been a fantastic showcase for the sport, and there’s a whole boatload of prize money at stake to boot.
Premier Golf League
Picture this: Team golf, featuring the biggest names in the sport competing for massive prizes across some of the best courses on the planet. You had us at hello on that, but throw in a relegation concept and we could be looking at something akin to pure gold.
While this one may never get off of the ground, it sounds fantastic. Here’s the gist.
- 12 teams comprised of 48 of world’s best players in 12 teams
- An 18 event schedule with tentative dates running Jan-Aug.
- 10 of the events to be hosted in the US
- Events are 54 holes with no cut rules
- $10 million in weekly prizes
- Season-ending event with even more money at stake
- A relegation system like Premier League Football
There’s reportedly some big money behind this, and it has garnered support from a few of the biggest names in the sport. Rory McIlroy is a notable exception as he has expressed trepidation at the idea, but the good news is that there are plenty of other talented pros who are more than worthy of consideration.
If all goes well, there could be a launch in 2022, but we’ll have to patiently wait and see what develops. From a golf odds perspective, the possibilities are endless. Picture it, weekly slates featuring the best in golf it out for eye-popping cash prizes. It’s not too hard to see this league becoming a smash hit in a short time.