Now that the 2015 Season is nearly over, we have had a chance to analyze the two professional Ultimate leagues.
DIVERSITY: A top pro league with predominately one race won’t help it grow to a worldwide audience nor attract talent. (see lacrosse, see NHL, see NBA in the 90s). The AUDL and MLU has a sizable number of white players, but also has a substantial number of Asian players as well. There is also a handful of black players throughout the leagues. San Jose has Marcelo Sanchez the one sole hispanic player in the league. Neither league appears to be segregating players. Advantage: Both.
CITIES: The MLU is in 8 cities concentrated mostly in the Northeast and Northwest. The AUDL has expanded to 25 cities. The AUDL has covered more of the continent including the Midwest, Canada and the Southeast. And there are talks of expanding to Texas, Boston, KC. Advantage: AUDL
MARKETING: In cities where both a MLU team and an AUDL team exists (NY, DC, PHI, SF, SEA, VAN), the MLU team appears to have more fans in attendance. Perhaps MLU marketing is reaching more fans. Advantage: MLU
WEBSITE: The AUDL website definitely needs some polish. It could take a couple of days to get the results of the games. The MLU website appears much more professional with consistency among all the team pages and more photos of the current players. Although the MLU website is not responsive on a smartphone. Advantage: MLU
MOBILE APP: The AUDL App is much more useful than the MLU App. The MLU App basically links you to their desktop website which looks horrible on a smartphone. The AUDL App shows the live scores of games currently in progress. And in some cases, you can see real-time stats. Advantage: AUDL
FANTASY: The MLU has a fantasy league, which is already impressive in it’s own right. But, you have to find at least 3 other buddies to be able to play in a fantasy league. It’s not possible to join a random league. I heard about an AUDL fantasy league, but no where to be found. Advantage: MLU
STATS: The AUDL uses ultianalytics.com to track stats has live stats of the top goals/assists/etc during games in the AUDL App. Teams in the AUDL are responsible for inputting their own team stats. This gets flaky as some teams are slow in inputting stats or misses games. The MLU has dedicated staff to keep track of all stats. The MLU is more reliable in compiling the stats of every player. But the MLU doesn’t have live stat tracking and does not have box scores of individual games. I think both the AUDL and MLU can improve in this department. Advantage: Even
VIDEO CONTENT: The MLU has full games and/or extensive highlights of every game. The MLU has been impressive in this area. In terms of making free video content available to the public, no other sports league can compare. Perhaps, MLSoccer comes closest. The AUDL has one game a week available online and there are some teams who are streaming live games online. If you want to see videos of AUDL highlights, you sometimes have to scour through the team pages to find game highlights if any. Both leagues create top 10 plays of the week. Advantage: MLU
NATIONAL BROADCASTS: The MLU has live broadcast of one game a week on their website at http://mlultimate.com/mlulive/ The AUDL has live broadcast of one game a week on http://ESPN3.com ESPN3 isn’t available in Canada, but having games played on ESPN does sound more prestigous and can give more exposure. Advantage: AUDL
ANNOUNCERS: Evan Lepler has established himself as the Bob Costas of the Olympics. Lepler is clearly the go-to guy to announce Ultimate games. The AUDL broadcasts on ESPN3.com does feel very professional. The announcers are given air time and you see a face to the voice. There are interviews with the players. The MLU has announcers for the games, but they are not recognizable. Advantage: AUDL
THEME SONG: The AUDL plays a theme song whenever you watch the Top 10 plays. And it’s very catchy. The MLU does not have a theme song. Advantage: AUDL
WRITERS: Again, Evan Lepler appears to be the most knowledgeable media person working in Ultimate at the moment. He writes the Tuesday Toss for the AUDL. Advantage: AUDL
SOCIAL MEDIA: The MLU has 60K likes on their facebook page. The AUDL has 40K likes on their facebook page. In cities with shared AUDL and MLU franchises, the MLU franchises has more facebook likes than their AUDL counterparts. Both leagues have Twitter and such. The MLU appears to have a bigger presence in social media. Advantage: MLU
VENUES/FIELD: AUDL Teams typically play on a football field where the goal line is visible at the 10 yard line. MLU teams play on a mix of football and soccer fields. When playing on the soccer field, it’s difficult to see the goal line at times because of the missing lines. The MLU championship game is usually played on an actual Ultimate field with field markers dedicated to Ultimate. Advantage: Even
TALENT: There seems to be more parity among the teams in the MLU. The AUDL has been able to reach more talented players due to sheer number of teams in various cities across the continent. If there was an AUDL All-Star team vs MLU All-Star team, I would bet money on the AUDL All-Star team winning. Advantage: AUDL
MERCHANDISE: At AUDL games, the home team provides and sells their own merchandise. Which ranges from t-shirts, discs, hats and a variety of other items depending on the team. At MLU games, along with the typical team appearel, you can purchase gloves, anti-sweat cream, etc from other companies. Advantage: MLU
MAGAZINE: Every year, the AUDL has a program available for purchase. $2 – which is a bargain. The program has the rosters of every team, articles and schedules. The MLU does not have a print magazine. Advantage: AUDL
BRANDING: Went into a sports store and found Innova Pulsar Discs on sale with the MLU logo on it. MLU’s centralized ownership allow brands to endorse their products easier. Advantage: MLU
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: The MLU Championship game is in Philadephia every year (in the founder’s backyard). MLU fans on the West coast can’t watch the Championship game unless they fly to the east coast. The 2014 AUDL Championship game and semi-finals was in Toronto and in 2015, the games will be in San Jose Earthquake’s new and pristine soccer stadium, Avala Stadium (my backyard). This stadium has luxury box seating, individual seats, outdoor bar. The 2015 AUDL Championship game will be huge for the league. Advantage: AUDL
I don’t see any plans of the AUDL and MLU merging any time soon. But as you can see, if the two leagues do decide to merge someday, it will form a formidable league.