High expenses pushing Revo to start a Latin American professional ultimate initiative
December 30, 2022 by Charlie Eisenhood in News with 0 comments
A major shift is coming to the Premier Ultimate League in 2023, as the undefeated and two-time PUL champion Medellín Revolution is departing the league and being replaced by a new franchise, the Philadelphia Surge.
Revolution, one of the founding teams in the PUL in 2019, is one of the sport’s most well-known and popular programs. The only team competing in the PUL from outside of the United States, Revolution would travel to the US multiple times a year for its games, often spending more than a week traveling around the country to compete and then returning home before flying back for Championship Weekend.
“That’s not an easy model for a Latin American team, not even for Revolution,” said Revolution founder and coach Mauricio Moore, who said the team faced three to four times the expenses that other teams in the league did as a result of the heavy travel schedule.
Although the team broke even thanks to sponsor support and help from other PUL teams with expenses and housing, the high cost of participating was a major factor in a decision to step away from the league. “There are real financial challenges to playing in the PUL,” said PUL Executive Committee member Janel Venzant. “Even with the league’s very successful player sponsorship program, the ability of any team to raise enough money to participate is challenging. The budget for a team ranges between $25,000 and $90,000.”
Additionally, Moore said that there were some differences with the PUL’s direction with a heavy emphasis on social issues. “For us, it’s more about the person, the player,” he said. “We want to bring it to the next level — we want our players to be paid, and not just for a game.”
As a result, Revolution is still committed to the professionalization of elite women’s ultimate. Not only were there talks to remain in the PUL, but they also considered joining the Western Ultimate League. The cost and logistical challenges remained a major hurdle. Instead, the team hopes to spearhead a new focus on Latin American elite competition, with an eye on hosting a “super championship” with the top Latin American team (for now, clearly Revolution), the winner of the PUL championship, and the winner of the WUL.
“The opportunity to have a championship event that expands across three leagues is definitely something the PUL is interested in,” said Venzant. “This type of excitement and ability to showcase women and gender-expansive players is at the core of our mission and vision.”
Moore spoke highly of the PUL and Revolution’s time competing in the first-ever women’s professional ultimate league. “It’s such an impressive and important experience that we received,” he said.
“Revolution as a team – and Mauricio Moore and Ana Maria Rojas, who served as the team’s representative on the PUL Board since the league’s inception – have been essential contributors in getting the PUL off the ground,” said Venzant. “Those two individuals in particular have put in so much work and love into the league and all of us who work in some capacity for the league will miss their personalities and regular input greatly! We’re all excited to continue to work together on possible future collaborations that can meet our shared goals for growing the sport.”
Philadelphia Fills the Void
Just three days after the announcement that Revolution would be leaving the league, the PUL unveiled plans for a new franchise for 2023: the Philadelphia Surge.
Organizers in Philly had expressed interest in joining the PUL after its inaugural 2019 season, putting in an application to join the league for 2020. At the time, the league demurred, announcing plans for four other new teams to bring the total to 12 and expressing plans for a more significant expansion in upcoming years including a possible incorporation of the WUL. However, the pandemic threw the league into disarray. The 2020 season was canceled, and there was no full season again until this year. No new teams were added for 2022, though Philly had again expressed interest in joining the league.
In mid-November, though, the PUL reached back out to Philadelphia. “They had heard that Revo was leaving the league and they needed a 12th team, and they were like, ‘Yep, get an application in and we will vote to add you,'” said Philadelphia Surge general manager and PUL veteran Andrea DeSabato.
The Philadelphia ownership group, led by Jordan Rhyne (AMP, AUDL Philadelphia Phoenix), flew into action. They put together the application materials, secured commitments from players, and decided on a name. Along with ties to Benjamin Franklin and electricity, said DeSabato, “I liked that it was a surge to get this team to happen, to join the PUL, and to put it all together in somewhat quick fashion.”
“As we came back to full strength in 2022, a thoughtful expansion that would set up all teams for success was still not something we were able to do,” said Venzant. “2023 is the first season that the PUL has felt prepared to welcome a new franchise, and since Philadelphia had already put in the work, and reached out again, we decided it was time to go.”
Philadelphia was perhaps the most obvious gap in the PUL’s map. The city is two hours from both DC and New York and within driving distance of Portland, Maine. Scheduling should become far easier for the league compared to finding games for Revolution.
And they will be competitive. Multiple Philadelphia players have competed with other PUL teams in past seasons and are now set to suit up for the Surge: DeSabato, Linda Morse, and Natalie Bova among them. “We want to give the people from Philadelphia a place to play locally and not have to travel and be a part of another group,” said DeSabato.
The opportunity to bring together all of the city’s female-matching players is also a driving factor. Many of the area’s top women compete in the club mixed division for Philadelphia AMP; the city hasn’t sent a team to the National Championships in the women’s division since 2016. “A lot of the hype and excitement around [the Surge] has been for that reason,” said DeSabato. “We’ve competed together in women’s divisions at Beach Nationals, at Goaltimate Nationals. We’ve won gold medals in women’s when we’ve played in one-off tournaments, a lot of the AMP crew. So it’s great to have a bigger stage for that, to give people a platform — if they want to play mixed for club, they can play a women’s version of ultimate outside of it in the PUL.”
Philadelphia will join New York, DC, and Portland in the East Division; Philly replaces Revo directly. The other two divisions will remain the same. The winner of each division will advance to Championship Weekend along with one wild card team.
“We are currently finalizing our schedule and will have a regular season starting the first weekend of April and ending the second weekend in June,” said Venzant. “Championship Weekend will be held June 17-18, with more details in January.”
Philadelphia hopes to be at Championship Weekend in their first year as a team. They’ll look to support from the local community, including collaboration where possible with the AUDL’s Philadelphia Phoenix, for a strong home field advantage. “[The Philadelphia Area Disc Alliance] has a huge community and tons of excitement around ultimate in general, and I think we can get a really great fanbase and a lot of people that will be rooting for that,” said DeSabato.