Lacrosse is an exhilarating team sport played between two sides that utilize netted sticks to pass, catch, and shoot the ball in an attempt to score goals. It’s one of the fastest growing sports in North America. But for new fans, one question often arises – how many lacrosse players are there on the field during gameplay?
In this in-depth guide, we’ll cover the lacrosse player configuration at various levels from youth leagues through the professional ranks. Understanding the basics of team size and on-field positioning helps newcomers better comprehend and enjoy the flow of a lacrosse match.
Youth and High School Lacrosse Team Size
Let’s start at the introductory level. For both boys and girls youth leagues, the standard configuration is 10 lacrosse players per team on the field during live play. The 10 players consist of:
- 1 Goalie
- 3 Defensemen
- 3 Midfielders
- 3 Attackers
Read more about the positions in lacrosse here.
The goalie actively defends the goal from shots at close range. Defensemen cover the defensive third of the field. Midfielders transition between offense and defense. Attackers operate solely on the offensive end.
This format allows for fast transitions and end-to-end action. Having just 10 players and specific roles teaches young athletes positional discipline and teamwork.
The 10-player per team setup remains the same once lacrosse players reach high school competition. NFHS rules dictate that lacrosse games at the high school level consist of 10 players on the field from each team, maintaining youth framework consistency.
College Lacrosse Team Size
At the next level up in NCAA competition, men’s lacrosse expands to have 10 players on the field per team just like youth and high school games. However, there is one subtle difference – a minimum of three long poles are required among the three defensemen.
This facilitates more physical defenders who can throw checks and joust for contested ground balls. But the 1 goalie, 3 defensemen, 3 midfield, and 3 attack configuration aligns with previous levels.
For women’s NCAA lacrosse, 12 players per team are allowed on the playing field rather than 10. The additional two players are midfielders, expanding the midfield group to 5 total rather than 3. This promotes additional off-ball movement and passing options in the women’s game.
Professional Lacrosse Team Size
In both the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) and National Lacrosse League (NLL), the standard is 10 lacrosse players on the field per team, keeping consistent with most previous levels of play.
The PLL plays standard outdoor lacrosse with 10 athletes per side – 1 goalie, 3 defensemen, 3 midfielders, and 3 attackers.
NLL box lacrosse matches also have 10 players competing per squad, though the exact distribution of defensive and offensive players can vary more dynamically based on game situations and coaching decisions.
Some key takeaways on the team size at different levels:
- Youth & high school operate with 10 field players per team.
- Men’s college is 10 players per team (3 long poles required).
- Women’s college expands to 12 players per team (5 midfielders).
- Professional leagues standardize on 10 players per side.
Why Doesn’t Lacrosse Have More Players On the Field?
Lacrosse is a frenetic sport requiring tremendous athleticism and skill. Moving up and down the field at high speeds chasing ground balls, cradling past defenders, and unleashing shots on goal is extremely physically demanding.
Unlike slower-paced sports like baseball or football, lacrosse’s continuous action does not allow for much rest or substitution. Playing time is maximized with the 10 or 12 player format standard at most levels.
Having too many additional players on the field would clog space and reduce each athlete’s involvement in the game. The standardized team sizes across lacrosse has led to an optimal balance between maximizing playing time, ensuring sufficient substitutes, and preventing the game from becoming overcrowded.
Does Lacrosse Ever Play With More Athletes?
For official competitions, the established number of on-field players is set by rule at each level of play. However, some exceptions and special scenarios do exist:
- Scrimmages/Practices: Coaches may add extra players or run unconventional lineups for development.
- All-Star Games: More players added to rosters for exhibition showcases.
- Local Leagues: Recreational adult leagues may variate team sizes more casually.
- New Competition Structures: Emerging leagues may experiment with larger rosters and on-field team sizes.
But broadly speaking, official organized team competitions from youth through pro maintain the standardized team sizes covered in this guide for optimal gameplay.
Lacrosse is lightning fast and fluid, with players constantly in motion across the entire playing surface. Having just 10-12 athletes maximum for each team allows for this continuous, free-flowing action. Adding additional players would clog the field and reduce active participation.
The focused team sizes ensure all players are actively involved on both ends – either defending relentlessly or attacking furiously. This creates the exhilarating up-and-down pace lacrosse is known for. Understanding the number of athletes on the field provides newcomers deeper insight into the game’s energetic nature.