Clubhouse Chatter: Rampant International Recruiting Is Good, Actually

An opinion on the global reach of Boston Brute Squad. Plus, a brief glimpse at notable early season results.

Boston Brute Squad’s Levke Walczak, Lilli Trautmann, and Laura Ospina celebrate during the women’s division semifinal of the 2023 Club Championships. Photo: William “Brody” Brotman –

Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2024 club ultimate season is presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author(s). Find out how Spin can get you, and your team, looking your best this season.

Welcome to Clubhouse Chatter, where the Ultiworld staff keep you caught up on the major events of the club season.

Rampant International Recruiting Is Good, Actually

Something snapped a little bit in the club frisbee world when Boston Brute Squad released their 2024 roster. The women’s division blue bloods signed Medellín Revolution stars Mangie Forero and Laura Ospina for the 2022 season – and then added Team Germany World Games star and consensus one-of-the-best-players-on-the-planet Levke Walczak for the Series. In 2023 they won a title – the club’s fourth – by adding a second German World Games player, Lilli Trautmann, into the mix for the Series. This season sees them reload with another pair of high-powered European imports: Floor Keulartz and Kristýna Tlustá, who (along with Walczak) found themselves comfortably inside the top-10 of our European editor Sean Colfer’s player rankings at the end of last year.1

As quick as you could raise an eyebrow, various influential people in the community (including our own editor-in-chief, Charlie Eisenhood) began to dig through the rules to determine whether Brute were abiding by the guidelines for how and when in-region residency needed to take effect to allow for such far-reaching recruiting. The consensus (unofficial) conclusion is that everything is probably on the up-and-up by the book. However, between the flexible nature of the in-region clause, the legitimate questions on whether an organization with USAU’s resources would ever be able to investigate the details of a potential violation, and the general sense of rich-getting-richer associated with a team of Brute Squad’s caliber landing even more big fish from across the pond, there is a faction of the community whose consternation borders on grievance.

Here’s the thing, though: Brute Squad’s recruiting wins – like those of Chicago Machine in the men’s division – are awesome for the club game. We shouldn’t be wringing our hands. We should be celebrating.

Every big-time international transfer enriches what is already the best league in the sport. The rigors of a USAU Club Series are legendary. Because of the concentration of so many high-level players, a successful weekend at Nationals is tantamount to reaching the South Pole overland. Great players wanting to challenge themselves in that arena is normal, and great teams looking anywhere they can for a talent edge is how sports work. Look at the top of European soccer leagues. Look at the NBA and Major League Baseball. These are global leagues at this point – an unqualified boon for fans and players alike. Ultimate doesn’t quite have that level of draw anywhere yet, but US club is the closest thing to it, and it should be growing in that direction.

Yes, competitive fairness is important, and regional boundaries should still matter to a certain extent for a competitive landscape in which any of the hundreds of teams that sign up for sectionals is technically in contention for a national championship until eliminated. But is it actually unfair in any competitive sense for a team to add great players to the roster? Let them sign on wherever they want. Keep the residency standards loose. Take it a step further even: teams should not only attract global talent, they should find ways to set up a sustainable organizational method to subsidize the cost to bring the talent stateside, and even to pay them. Pay all the players on top teams, in fact, as soon as you can. Easier said than done, obviously, but paying players to play the best version of the game at the highest level2 should be the goal. Any team who can do it well first should be applauded.

For now, we can settle for applauding the intercontinental reach of Brute Squad. And Chicago Machine. And San Francisco Fury. And Denver Molly Brown. And Washington DC Truck Stop. And New York BENT. And previous years’ efforts from the likes of Seattle Riot, Atlanta Chain Lightning, Austin Doublewide, and Toronto 6ixers. The club game is richer in every way for it. And if you are scrutinizing the residency rules to see if they’re putting a toe out of line, you are missing the forest for the trees.

Early Season Indicators: Results and Rosters

While the big USAU-led tournaments won’t kick off until this weekend with the western and eastern version of Pro-Elite Challenge, the club season has been kicking for six weeks. Early results aren’t always reliable, but they can, in some cases, have a major impact on the bid picture. (See: Last season’s Raleigh-Durham United win over New York PoNY at the Phantom Invite.)

In the men’s division, Eugene Summer Solstice offered a first look at two of last year’s Nationals qualifiers: Portland Rhino Slam! and Eugene Dark Star. Rhino (reloaded with Henry Ing and Matt Rehder) took the tournament with a clean run through the Sunday bracket. The real story, though,  might be Seattle Sockeye. Sockeye scored a win off of Rhino on Saturday and played close in the final. Having invested heavily in development of the area’s younger players, they’re poised to step back into Nationals contention after missing out last season.

The biggest early season indicator at the women’s division happened at this past weekend’s Heavyweights in Chicago. Winnipeg Fusion missed out on the title by a single point, but given that their best player, Joely Valencerina, was only with them as a tune-up for the Canadian Ultimate Championships and will be cleating up for 6ixers in the USAU Series, the real story is Indy Rogue, the winners. Outplaying Madison Heist and playing within one of Ann Arbor Outrage shows the team’s potential after a years-long community buy-in. They could nab an invaluable second bid for the Great Lakes and earn the program’s first trip to Nationals.

The mixed division, meanwhile, seems poised to be as unpredictable as ever. Fort Collins shame. began their title defense with a tournament win at Colorado Summer Solstice, taking care of a bevy of fringe Nationals hopefuls like Los Angeles Lotus, Denver Love Tractor, Ames Chad Larson Experience, and Pittsburgh Port Authority. Keep an eye on Port Authority in particular, whose roster has taken a big step forward from last year and already have an early season win over regionals rivals Philadelphia AMP.3 Are we looking at a long-awaited shakeup to the power structure in the Mid-Atlantic?

The most important sign for October, though, is the way various rosters are shaking up. There have been a lot of roster drops across several social media platforms. It’s a lot to keep track of. Don’t worry, Ultiworld has you covered. We’ve been sprinting to keep up with it all, publishing text versions that track each team’s additions and departures.

You can find an ongoing collection of all elite club team rosters here.

Looking Ahead: Primers, Power Rankings, Pro-Elite Challenges

We are going to have a lot of club season content on the site later this week. Preseason Power Rankings hit the presses soon and will be ready to read on Wednesday. We’ll also drop our 2024 Primers – guides to the biggest storylines, key players, and hot takes from our reporting staff – for each of the three divisions.

This weekend will see the first major tournaments of the 2024 club season: Pro-Elite Challenge East and Pro-Elite Challenge West. Most of the top teams in the country will make their season debuts, including the reigning champions of both the men’s and women’s divisions. We’ll have a mix of on-the-ground and remote reporting, as well as streaming video coverage of both tournaments. Streaming details and previews to come later this week.

  1. They do, however, lose Trautmann. 

  2. No, the semi-pro leagues aren’t the highest level or the best version – but that’s a different op-ed. 

  3. AMP did eventually win the highly competitive Loco Home Tournament despite the loss. 

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