On Monday the 16th, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially approved five new sports : baseball/softball, flag football, cricket, lacrosse, and squash for addition to the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympics . These additions by the committee align with their intentions to make LA28 unique while engaging new athlete and fan communities not yet reached by the Olympic Games.
All these sports will benefit greatly from the exposure that comes with the billions of viewers that will watch the 2028 Olympics. But these four major sports stand to gain the most, each in their own way.
This will be the seventh time that baseball has been a medal sport at the Olympics and the sixth time for softball, with both being played most recently at the 2020 games in Tokyo. Baseball has a sizable international audience already but being in the Olympics can’t hurt, and Softball can use LA28 as a chance to grow the sport’s domestic fanbase. There have been several professional softball leagues with the newest, Women’s Professional Fastpitch (WPF), launched in June 2023. If the WPF finds enough success until 2028, Olympic Softball will undoubtably be a great opportunity for teams to grow their fan bases.
Where the two sports can benefit the most is by using LA28 as a chance to boost the growth of youth baseball and softball. Baseball had seen a steady increase in youth participation from 2013-2018 with a decline beginning in 2018 and numbers freefalling in 2020, due in no small part to the COVID-19 pandemic. While youth participation has been on the rise since, it has yet to fully rebound. Softball has seen much of the same, just on a smaller scale.
Young boys and girls having the chance to watch their national team play in the LA28 Olympics is a golden opportunity for the sports to drive interest and participation. World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) president Riccardo Fraccari said, “(Baseball and softball’s) inclusion in LA28 will excite athletes and fans across the US and around the world, inspiring a new generation of boys and girls to chase Olympic glory.”
Cricket has the most domestic growth potential of any of these newly added sports, with the competition not yet finding a true foothold in the US. But interest in Cricket is on the rise and the sport being featured in LA28 will be invaluable for the growth of the US based professional Cricket league, Major League Cricket (MLC). Founded in 2019 and launched in 2023, MLC had a shockingly successful opening season with routine sellouts of their 7,200+ seat venues. Over 70,000 fans attended matches during the inaugural season totaling more than $2.8 million in ticket sales revenue, a number thought to be unachievable for at least two seasons according to MLC co-founder Sameer Mehta.
The International Cricket Committee (ICC) has identified the US as the second largest commercial market for the sport, only behind India, and have already made efforts to grow the sport in the US, including the decision to have the US co-host the 2024 men’s T20 World Cup. About 19 matches are planned to take place next year in New York, Dallas, and Florida.
Lacrosse has seen unprecedented growth in the last two decades. Participation numbers are up over 500% in the last decade, more and more states are sanctioning lacrosse as a high school sport, and the number of men’s and women’s NCAA programs are on the rise. Premier League Lacrosse (PLL) has also seen incredible growth recently, with viewership up 69% in the 2023 season. The league has a broadcast rights deal with Disney (ESPN, ESPN2, ABC) and regular season games on those channels averaged 254,000 viewers, up from 150,000 in 2022.
Olympic Lacrosse will be a can’t-miss opportunity for the sport to continue its explosive growth, especially in the western US and overseas. Lacrosse is traditionally viewed as an east-coast sport but has made major strides in the western states. With the 2028 Games being hosted in Los Angeles, the already sizable growth in the west will undoubtably receive a massive boost. The game has a good bit of growth to do internationally, but there isn’t a better way to showcase a sport to the entire world than through the Olympic Games.
Finally, we have Flag Football. The sport with arguably the most to gain internationally. American Football has grown tremendously overseas in recent years, thanks to the efforts of the NFL. The league hosts games abroad in Mexico City, England, Germany and more. But, despite these efforts, the game has a lot of room to grow overseas. The exposure that American football will get via the Olympics will be invaluable.
For Olympic flag football to draw the most eyes possible, the best players in the world will have to participate in the Games and several NFL stars have already expressed interest. Miami Dolphins star receiver Tyreek Hill and has been public with his desire to play in 2028, saying on his podcast, “You know how amazing it would be to assemble a super team to play in the Olympics?” Hill also posted a call to action on X for NFL players to come together and, “bring one home.”
Even retired legend TE Rob Gronkowski has said he would come out of retirement to participate in Olympic flag football. “Count me in already,” Gronk said in an interview with TMZ. “USA going all the way.”
NFL EVP Peter O’Reily has spoken at league meetings about the NFL’s willingness to work with teams and the NFLPA to help active players participate. “We understand the desire,” O’Reily said. “We think it’s a great opportunity because the player interest is real and desirable.”
We still have a long way to go until the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, but the excitement for these newly added sports is already palpable. No one knows how these newly added events will fair in The Games, but it is certain that their addition is game-changing. LA28 is shaping up to be a unique, exciting, and memorable Olympic Games.