There are an estimated 690 college lacrosse teams in the United States. Most are participating under one of three major organizations:
Many people are not aware that unlike other major college sports such as football or basketball, only about 1/3 of all college universities have NCAA sponsored official varsity lacrosse programs. The vast majority of college teams fall into the category of virtual varsity club teams. Virtual varsity is a term that describes a team that is an independent student club team that is affiliated with the university. Unlike an NCAA varsity program, the virtual varsity club team is responsible for most if not all of the substantial costs associated with running their program. While there are some very well funded club programs, most struggle to cover costs. Many student club teams have volunteer coaches and many players are required to actually pay membership dues and fund raise in order to participate on the team. This is in stark contrast to the well funded NCAA varsity teams who generally have paid coaching staffs, and a full compliment of scholarships provided by the universities to recruit top players. The popularity of virtual varsity club teams appears to be growing among universities, because there is very little cost associated to the venture for the university. This seems to be especially true among schools that are bringing lacrosse back or adding it for the first time. Many universities that once had men’s lacrosse as a varsity sport eliminated their varsity programs as a consequence of title 9 restrictions which require universities to provide equal opportunities for men’s and women’s sports.
NCAA- National Collegiate Athletic Association- Men’s varsity lacrosse is made up of colleges primarily on the Eastern half of the country. There are roughly 267 NCAA sponsored teams playing in Division I, Division II, or Division III. Each division has its own playoff tournament and championship game played toward the end of May. Click this link to go to SimplyLacrosse.com’s NCAA Lacrosse page for more detailed information.
The rest of college lacrosse is comprised primarily of virtual varsity club teams. There are some 450-550 club teams. Most of those teams play in organized conferences or leagues. There are also still some schools that have club teams that are not affiliated with a conference, and they compete strictly as independents. Some schools that have NCAA varsity teams also have club teams that also compete in different club conferences, or as independents.
MCLA - Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association
The largest of the college club conferences, which also proudly proclaims to be the largest lacrosse conference in the world, is the newly formed MCLA – Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association. The MCLA was formed in 2006 when the US Lacrosse Intercollegiate Associate or USLIA split off from US Lacrosse to conduct business independently. The MCLA is currently made up of nine independent conferences which represent teams from all across the US. Separated into two divisions and with nearly 211 teams the MCLA is the power house of non varsity college lacrosse.
NCLL - National College Lacrosse League
There are 114 teams in the NCLL primarily in the North Eastern US organized into twelve conferences, and two divisions. They have two championship games one for each of the two divisions. Unlike the MCLA the NCLL also allows non varsity club teams from schools who also have Varsity programs. Click this link for a list of colleges who participate in the NCLL.
Go to: NCAA Lacrosse Home Page
Go to: MCLA Home Page
Go to: NCLL Home Page