The New York Empire are one of six pro Ultimate teams that are sharing their city with a team from a rival league. Along with the New York teams, Philadelphia and Washington DC are in the same predicament. Unlike those other cities though, the club team breakdown between the MLU and AUDL rosters in New York is more diverse. You have PoNY players on the Empire and their MLU equivalent, the Rumble. You also have players from 7Express and District 5 on both teams. So unlike their AUDL counterparts in Philadelphia and DC, the Empire are not starting with as big a talent gap (whether or not those talent gaps end up mattering in DC and Philadelphia remains to be seen).
Yes, there is talent on this Empire roster. In addition to Aaron Bell, Jack Marsh and Isaiah Bryant will be joining the Empire from PoNY. Last season Marsh was a PoNY captain, and though PoNY went winless in Sarasota, he was instrumental in helping them upset GOAT in the second place game at Regionals. And his celebrations are just as strong as his play. Last season Isaiah Bryant played for PoNY and the Connecticut Constitution. On the season he threw 17 assists and caught 13 goals, the only other player on the team to surpass both those numbers was their Captain/Coach, John Korber.
Bryant is one of five players on the Empire with AUDL experience. Seth Canetti and Husayne Carnegie, two District 5 players, also played with him on the Constitution last season. Ben Ivers will be suiting up for the Empire this season too, after playing with the AlleyCats last season.
The Empire have a tough job in competing with the Rumble to get fans in the stadium, but there are enough people in New York that both teams could have a successful season. According to their website, the Empire are playing at Randalls Island Park, a nice central location to draw fans to. However while the Park has Major League Lacrosse teams listed on their event calendar, they do not currently list the Empire. Their website isn’t great, clicking on team schedule redirects you to buy tickets, so you can’t tell who the Empire are playing in their away games. There’s also a lot of blank space on most pages. Ticket prices for games are an average of $10 for the season ticket package, higher than most AUDL teams but not bad when factoring in the cost of living in New York.
With strong leadership and a diversity of club experience, the Empire is expected to be the second strongest team in the Eastern Conference. Ultiworld agrees, but has them ranked sixth overall, behind the Rush and four Midwestern teams. Their first few weeks of play could tell us a lot. They start off with three home games, and then an away game at Rochester. If they can’t beat the Rush in New York in the second week of back to back road trips for Toronto we’ll know they won’t be finishing the season at the top of the conference. But, if they do beat the Rush under those favorable conditions, they could start the season 4-0, given the ease of the rest of their schedule, home games against the Breeze, Dragons, then that away game in Rochester.