What You Need To Know About NPF's New Schedule Format
When the 2020 NPF season begins April 10, the league's schedule will have a brand-new format.
The new format, which will include 81 games between April and August, will feature a series-event model that is designed to feature multiple teams at once.
According to NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf, the biggest reason for the change to the league's 2020 schedule format is this summer's Olympics. With three NPF squads—the Cleveland Comets, Canadian Wild and Aussie Peppers—largely made up of players who will represent Mexico, Canada and Australia, respectively, at the Tokyo Games in July, league officials wanted to be sensitive to the needs of those players and teams regarding the Olympics when designing the 2020 NPF schedule.
"It was just all about it being an Olympic year and us making sure that we honor our Olympic teams in the league and our partnerships with them by preparing them for Olympic competition the best possible way we can," Kempf told Softball America. "The Olympic year also gives us a perfect time to launch this new format, showcase it and see how it sizes up from the traditional model of head-to-head, home and away matchups."
Find out more about the new NPF schedule format below.
Softball America: What is the biggest difference between this year’s NPF schedule and previous schedules?
Cheri Kempf: The primary switch is from head-to-head, home and away to a series-event structure, and that is, typically, multi-team events rather than just one vs. one.
SA: Why did the league decide to move to this format?
CK: Because it is an Olympic year and we knew we were going to have to get creative, so that was half of it. That’s why we started looking at a different schedule model. We knew we would have to change the schedule, so once we started getting into it and toying with the multi-team model, it just became more and more appealing. The concept of allowing people to host who are good at hosting is appealing.
SA: The season starts in April this year, which is a little bit earlier than in previous years, how do you anticipate that impacting things in terms of the presence of current college players in the league this season?
CK: There will be a spot for college players and there will still be plenty of the (NPF) season left (after the college season ends), but since three of our teams are Olympic teams and they are trying to prepare for that competition, it was important for us to style the schedule around what those teams thought they needed, in terms of when they needed to start and the break they needed for rest and recovery and their exit plans to be able to head to Tokyo.
SA: How do you think a schedule like this benefits NPF fans?
CK: It lets the fans experience more than two teams at once. It takes the repetition out of teams playing each other four times in a row. It allows teams to create a more effective atmosphere because they have more going on and more games to host in one event and one period of time. I think it’s going to create a better environment overall, and then it just exposes the fans to more teams, in most cases, than just two.
SA: What other benefits do you foresee this schedule having for the league?
CK: I think this type of schedule lends itself well to expansion because we can have events anywhere. Anyone can host a series-event, and that can be domestically or internationally. I thought about golf and tennis with this. You choose your schedule. You decide what fits best with your roster, competitively. You can also consider your budget with it.
We have to think creatively. In this model, you don’t have to have all your players come into market, necessarily. If you look at the California team, those players aren’t all going to live in Los Angeles because they don’t have to. They just have to be at the series-event for their team. It’s possible for someone to put a team together and compete, just like California is doing, and really embrace the model of not living in one spot all the time.
SA: Is this type of schedule costing the league more or less money for this season?
CK: It will cost less, in most cases, if not all cases.
SA: Will there be a Championship Series this season?
CK: No, the champion will be decided by the regular-season standings. In a lot of sports, people make adjustments for Olympic years. One of the options for that is to just shut down totally, and people have done that, or to take a huge break. But because of our unique model with three Olympic teams in the league, it wasn’t reasonable to ask them to return to the U.S. just for our championship.