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International Swimming League names US teams, details launch plans

Organisers of the International Swimming League (ISL) have confirmed the four US teams that will compete in the new competition, while spelling out further plans for the series which will debut later this year.

Dubbed the first professional sports league for elite swimming, the ISL is seeking to “shift the paradigm” of the sport by offering pro athletes a chance to participate in regular seasons and earn competitive bonuses, prize money, appearance money, and build commercial value.

The League will see four mixed gender teams apiece from the US and Europe meet in a series of competitions across the two continents. Meets will begin October 4-5 and will be held almost every weekend through November 24.

The finals will be held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on December 20-21 using a newly built, pop-up 25m swimming pool in the main venue at the arena.

The four US franchises have now been confirmed as the Los Angeles Current, DC Trident, San Francisco-based Cali Condors and New York Breakers. While the European teams have yet to be formally announced, the SwimSwam website said they will include the London Roar, Iron Swim Budapest and the Energy Standard team, which is set to be based in France. The Italian capital of Rome is set to be the home of the fourth team, Aqua Centurions.

Mixed-gender teams will compete for points in races – including sprint, relay and skin – held across short course meters. Swimmers will compete for team points, with total gender equality of 12 men and 12 women per team.

ISL has said that 75 per cent of swimming’s current Olympic champions and world record holders will compete in the League and the latest announcement has confirmed the signing of stars such as Katie Ledecky, Nathan Adrian, Simone Manuel and Ryan Murphy.

Each athlete will sign two contracts – one with their team and another with the ISL – creating two sources of revenue, one that runs through the clubs, and one that comes directly from the League. The ISL has been founded by Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Grigorishin, who has pledged that the League will share 50 per cent of its profits with athletes.

Grigorishin also said talks with broadcast partners are ongoing, but the new league has faced considerable opposition from the sport’s world governing body, Fina. In December, Fina said it was prepared to mount a “robust defence” against class-action lawsuits filed against it by three leading swimmers and organisers of the ISL, which claims the federation is leveraging its market dominance to extract, and largely keep for itself, significant levels of revenue.

Since then, Fina has formed its own Champions Swim Series, which is set to debut in Guangzhou, China later this month. “We have no principle conflict with Fina,” Grigorishin said, according to the Associated Press news agency.

“Fina should be responsible for the whole swimming world. The league is just for the elite swimmers. Somebody has to regulate and set up the rules in swimming. If you are a regulator, you should not be organiser of competition. In the future, Fina will have to make a choice.”

The ISL added that a formal meet schedule and participating team athletes will be disclosed in the coming weeks.