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INFOGRAPHIC: Comparing The Four “Pro” Leagues

by and in Analysis, Featured with 13 Comments

2013 is shaping up to be one of the most pivotal years ever in Ultimate. With a major restructuring of the Club series by USA Ultimate to create the Triple Crown Tour, another season of the American Ultimate Disc League, a new professional spin-off league in Major League Ultimate, and a possible new elite club circuit in the NexGen league, players — and in some cases teams — have big decisions to make in the coming months.

To make sense of it all, John Korber — who has already done a basic breakdown of the four leagues — made a chart comparing the four leagues across a range of issues, like their mission, how they will affect players, and how they might affect the sport over time.

Click the image to expand.

A breakdown of the four potential major Ultimate leagues in 2013.

Infographic design by Adam Ford.

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About John Korber

John Korber is a longtime ultimate player, coach, and administrator with experience at the youth, high school, recreational, college and club levels. In 2012, he served as General Manager and Head Coach for the AUDL's Connecticut Constitution in its inaugural season. He also played for the team and led the league in goals scored. He graduated from Tufts University in 2005 and earned an MBA from the University of Connecticut in 2012. John currently lives in Hebron, Connecticut with his wife, two sons, and two dogs.

View all posts by John Korber →

About Charlie Eisenhood

Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

View all posts by Charlie Eisenhood →

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  • http://twitter.com/smatthodgson Matthew Hodgson

    It’s a wonderful Infographic, but would it not have made more sense to line up the AUDL and MLU next to each other and the TCT and NGL next to each other as that’s where the main elements of competition will be (between the two pro leagues and the two club competition formats) and the biggest comparisons can be observed?

    • http://www.ultiworld.com/ Charlie Eisenhood

      It’s a good point, but we decided it best to order them by “age.” The AUDL is the only one to exist last season, the Triple Crown has a strong foundation from past USAU club series’, the MLU hasn’t started yet, and NexGen may or may not happen.

  • Jeremy

    Great analysis! Loving all of your new content.

  • “Pro” Women’s Player

    Would be great analysis, but for one glaring exclusion. The USAU Triple Crown Tour provides playing opportunities for open, mixed and women’s divisions. (More to the point, both men and women players.) Since it’s not mentioned anywhere, I’m just going to assume that none of the other three leagues are planning on running a women’s league. This feels like a safe assumption.

    I have to say that I am deeply bothered by the reporting here. You explore the effects of each league on elite, high, mid and low-level players, but completely ignore a HUGE portion of current players: women. Women occupy each of those tiers, just like men. And, believe it or not, the success of these leagues does impact female players, even if we’re not being targeted as worthy for “spectator friendly ultimate.”

    I’m not saying that each of these pro leagues should be making women’s leagues as well. I won’t even try to convince you that elite women’s ultimate is just as worthy of spectators as elite men’s. I’m just saying that if you’re going to put out such an extensive chart exploring the impact of these changes on current players, you need to either: a) consider ALL current players, or b) make it explicit that since the other three leagues aren’t offering women opportunities to play, you’re just not going to address the issue here. I find the option that you’ve chosen (ignoring the fact that women play this game too) actually insulting, and actually damaging to public perceptions/awareness of the women’s game.

    • John Korber

      “Pro” Women’s Player – Thanks for bringing this up. I was actually talking to a good friend of mine on the subject in the past few hours. I agree with everything you’ve said, and in hindsight wish that the labels on the effects on the levels were division specific. The intention was not to insult the women’s segment of the ultimate community, and I apologize for the omission.

      I’d like to write some analysis on how I think these ventures would each affect the women’s game as well, because as you correctly state, women represent a significant portion of the current participant base.

      Based on my experiences with women’s players at a variety of levels and divisions, and supplemented by the responses to my two recent surveys, I can say the following. Generally speaking, women play ultimate for the same reasons men do, and their personal interests as participants are aligned with their male counterparts. Rather than fill up another huge comment with my theories, I’ll see what I can do about providing a revised set of analysis that is less focused on the effect to male players and more considerate to the players in all divisions.

      Thanks again for the feedback. I genuinely appreciate your calling me out for the omission, and will be better in the future.

      • Josh Seamon

        Thanks for owning up to this John. After reading through your great infographic, I was just about to post something similar to what “Pro Women’s Player” already typed out. I look forward to seeing your updated analysis.

        I would also ask you to do this: Go recheck out the myriad of articles that have been written (by UltiWorld and others) about the recent explosion of Pro Ultimate League options and figure out how many of them even superficially mention women playing the sport.

        And as a bonus question: How many of the four new offerings have women involved in their leadership?

        • John Korber

          Josh Seamon and “Pro” Women’s Player and others-

          After some discussions with the Ultiworld team, I decided that the mixed and women’s analysis will be better presented in its own article. I did a mockup of the infographic with the additional rows, and the high level of interconnectedness between the divisions makes it difficult to break out in a clear and concise way. I hope to spend some time on the piece this week, so look for it in the coming days. Thanks again for the feedback.

          • Pro Women’s Player

            Thanks a lot John. I hope my original post didn’t come across too critical of you individually– with this exception, your analysis is very extensive and well thought out. It’s just an increasingly common issue, and one that is actually very close to my heart. (Ultimate forms my identity more than anything else I do, and the relegation of women’s ultimate to something less than men’s feels… kind of like how my grandma did, when she told her teacher that she wanted to be a doctor, and he told her that she meant nurse.)

            Anyway, I appreciate your response.

    • Perspective

      Ugh. Really?!? This tired old argument? Ok, you feel left out. Then get together with your other “pro” friends and start a “pro” league. Women’s ultimate is a great sport, but generally women don’t seem to crave the recognition and validation that men do. Therefore, you see much more organized, attention-seeking ventures for the mens side, orchestrated BY MALES.
      Frequently you see posts on rsd bitching about “lack of women’s coverage” this and “lack of consistent analysis” that. The fact is, more often it’s the men who are buying subscriptions and dvds and it’s the mens footage that is being bought and it’s the mens division that most people CHOOSE to watch, whether online or in person at tournaments. Stop comparing yourself to the mens product and perhaps attempt to differentiate yourselves as players in another way, but stop complaining that the people who are willing to step up and consistently provide coverage do so to their largest audience, males. Organize womens ultimate and promote womens ultimate in a way that is sustainable and exciting, but don’t expect someone else to do it for you just because the men are getting coverage. Take action.

      • John Korber

        This is a perspective, I think, that absolutely applies to the spectator component of sport. There are several logical reasons for the relative viewership of the NBA and WNBA. You’re right…most of it has to do with the gender dynamics and physical characteristics of the players….and then the resulting physical performances that result.

        But in a participant focused initiative, such as NCAA sports, or the USAU, the interests of the female participants are as equally valid as those of their male counterparts. The gender distribution of the leadership shouldn’t have anything to do with the offerings to the participating group. In the three columns describing initiatives with primarily spectator-centric values, you’re exactly right.

        But to ask that the effects of these market changes on the participant focused aspects of the women’s game seems completely reasonable. It was a classically male focused oversight, and I had no problem with the request.

      • Pro Women’s Player

        You’ll notice– if you read a little closer– that I was never complaining about the differences in playing opportunities. I understand the argument you’ve (somewhat aggressively) espoused, and have given up fighting against it. What I was (and continue to be) frustrated by is that as men’s ultimate gains this notoriety, women’s ultimate becomes increasingly invisible. I can handle this when it is a direct result of women not having professional leagues (i.e. people who have just been exposed to ultimate this year via MLU may legitimately not know that women play at high levels). But when entrenched ultimate blogs/websites/analysts write about the elite levels of the game (especially USAU’s Triple Crown, which does include playing opportunities for elite women), and fail to mention it even once, I am bothered. That feels the men’s ultimate community being glad that they can finally shake off the shackles of women’s ultimate and get down to business. You can imagine how that would be frustrating, given the immense amount of time and energy my teammates and I put into being as good as we can be.

        And, as my monicker implies, I’m already in a pro league– USAU’s Pro Flight.

        • http://ultiworld.com/author/ceisenhood/ Charlie Eisenhood

          Ultiworld has done quite a bit of coverage of the effect of the Triple Crown Tour on the women’s division. But it has been difficult getting women’s opinions. In fact, I emailed captains of most of the pro and elite teams a few weeks back — I only heard back from Riot.

  • Some Guy

    This seems like it is biased towards to MLU. It fails to mention that the AUDL is branching out into Ultimate hotbeds this season.

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