February 8, 2023
By Daniel Cohen
Rivalries grow deeper and deeper every year, and in 2023 there may be more anticipation than ever before between several of the league’s top matchups. Loaded with playoff teams and championship contenders, the following six rivalries will be worth following throughout the season.
DC Breeze and New York Empire
2023 regular season matchups: Weeks 3 and 10
The headlining rivalry of this season, DC-New York is heating up to an all-time high heading into 2023. DC is one of just three teams to have defeated New York since 2019, but they’ve only done it once, with four one-goal losses (in eight games) over the same time period. The most recent one-goal loss was the real stinger, as Ben Jagt came down with a jump ball at the buzzer to send the Empire to Championship Weekend and end DC’s 2022 season.
DC retooled this offseason, signing two former Minnesota Wind Chill stars in Andrew Roy and Cole Jurek, along with Joe Merrill, who spent last season with the Salt Lake Shred after his 2021 rookie year with DC. All three guys add to what could be the deepest roster in the entire league and are sure to make immediate impacts in 2023. But with New York expected to return the majority of their 2022 championship roster, including their three First Team All-AUDL selections, the question remains: Will DC’s depth be enough to overcome New York’s stars? We’ll find out in Week 3 and Week 10, and if we’re all lucky enough, in the East Division Championship Game.
Salt Lake Shred and Colorado Summit
2023 regular season matchups: Weeks 7 and 8
While Colorado won each of the three meetings last year, the Salt Lake-Colorado rivalry should continue to take center stage in the West Division. The two 2022 expansion teams, each with notable local talent and AUDL stars, took over the West last year with aggressive offense and loads of defensive playmaking. Jonathan Nethercutt and Jordan Kerr lead their respective offenses in Colorado and Salt Lake, and the two MVP finalists put on some of the most entertaining offensive showcases in the league last season.
The lone 10-win teams in the West Division last year, their first meeting of 2022 came in Colorado’s home opener, where the Summit needed a fourth quarter comeback to escape with a narrow 21-20 win over the Shred. The next time they played in Colorado, they competed in the West Division Championship Game and were tied through three quarters, before the Summit were ultimately able to pull away in the fourth to advance to Championship Weekend. The highlight-friendly, momentum-driven playstyles of both teams keep each of them in any game, and with another year under the belt of the many young playmakers between the two rosters, the league’s newest rivalry should stay sizzling in 2023.
Minnesota Wind Chill and Chicago Union
2023 regular season matchups: Weeks 5, 6, and 12
Chicago’s rise to the top of the Central has included back-to-back Central Division Championship Game wins over Minnesota, the first of which required a late surge to overcome a three-goal deficit in the fourth quarter. Since 2019, Chicago has an 8-3 record against Minnesota, with the Wind Chill winning one meeting in each of the last three seasons.
This offseason, both teams have suffered sizable losses from their 2022 rosters. Minnesota lost two offensive staples—Andrew Roy and Cole Jurek—to the DC Breeze, and the team also announced O-line cutter Nick Vogt won’t be returning to the Wind Chill for 2023. But the biggest news of the offseason was the departure of all-time AUDL assist leader Pawel Janas from Chicago. Janas moved to SoCal and signed a historic six-year deal with the Los Angeles Aviators this offseason.
Can Chicago hang on to the top spot without their star quarterback? Can Minnesota make it to their first Championship Weekend the year that they host the event? They’ve got three regular season meetings to duke it out, as the Central feels like the most wide open division heading into 2023.
Atlanta Hustle and Carolina Flyers
2023 regular season matchups: Weeks 2, 4, 12, and 13
Four regular season meetings this year between Atlanta and Carolina; a third of their 12-game schedules will come against their top rival. Carolina has historically held the edge—they’ve won eight of the last 10 meetings dating back to 2018—though with the talent Atlanta has been accumulating over the past few seasons, they’ve become a force to be reckoned with in the South. Four of the last five meetings between the Flyers and Hustle have been decided by two goals or fewer, and Atlanta comes into 2023 with a bit more of a chip on their shoulder after getting swept by Carolina last season and ultimately missing the playoffs.
The impact of their games this year will be magnified by the schedule; they’ll play two early games in Weeks 2 and 4, then two late games in Weeks 12 and 13. Each team will look to set the tone early, just as they have the previous two years—Atlanta defeated Carolina at home in Week 1 of 2021, while Carolina took care of business at home in 2022. The two late meetings will set up the South Division playoff race for a photo finish, as Austin is sure to be the third team in the mix for two playoff spots.
LA Aviators and San Diego Growlers
2023 regular season matchups: Weeks 2 and 6
While the Aviators have just two wins over the Growlers in their 11 meetings since 2019, the SoCal rivalry may take a turn this year. With Pawel Janas signing with LA, he brings with him a sort of gravity that could make significant waves in SoCal. Through his consistency on the field, leadership, and relentless recruiting efforts, we saw what he was able to build in Chicago, and with all the annual player movement between the Aviators and Growlers—just last year San Diego added Sean McDougall, Tyler Bacon, and Chris Mazur who all played for LA during 2018 Championship Weekend—Janas might be just the catalyst the Aviators need to win some recruiting battles.
While they still have Championship Weekend potential, the Growlers fell to third in the West Division playoff race in 2022 after winning the division each of the previous two seasons. And while LA hasn’t finished with a winning record since 2019, they’ve shown the ability to play with any team in the West and have a versatile young core that should continue to get better.
Five of the last 11 SoCal meetings have been decided by two goals or fewer. My money would be on two more of those to come in 2023.
DC Breeze and Carolina Flyers
2023 regular season matchups: Weeks 1 and 6
That’s right, we have a legit interdivisional rivalry in 2023! DC and Carolina are running it back to 2021 when the loaded, one-hit-wonder Atlantic Division took center stage and with it three incredible games between the Breeze and Flyers. Two one-goal wins for DC in the first two meetings, before Carolina turned it on in the playoffs and defeated DC 19-16 to advance to Championship Weekend and eventually win the AUDL title.
We have the privilege of watching TWO Breeze-Flyers matchups in the 2023 regular season, one in DC and one in Carolina, including the season-opening Game of the Week on April 29. These teams have consistently ranked top five in the league for the better part of the last two seasons, with each owning one win over New York in that time. They’ll look to settle the debate of which team is the top challenger to the Empire, while they become fully battle-tested in the regular season.
DC holds a 3-2 advantage over Carolina all-time, with all three of their wins coming by exactly one goal; two of the five meetings have gone to overtime. Expect fireworks in this renewed rivalry between the two deepest 20-man rosters in the entire league.
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