International Swimming League Adds New Twists to Format for 2021

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Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu / ISL

During its first two seasons of competition, the International Swimming League has made adjustments to its format to create an more competitive environment for its athletes and a more engaging and exciting experience for fans. Previously, the ISL has de-emphasized times in its first season and then introduced jackpot times in its second season that would allow teams to steal points from swimmers slower than a certain time. Other innovations have included two swimmers from each team racing next to each other and skins elimination 50-meter races at the end of each meet.

Now, the ISL will add even more changes to its format. Last year, eight of the 10 clubs qualified for the semifinal round of the playoffs, but now, the top six will qualify while the remaining four will compete in a “wild card” meet (bringing the season to 11 total meets). Additionally, the playoff round will be extended rather than going straight to the semifinal round.

Regarding events, there will be a more complicated process to determining the stroke for the skins event. Rather than the 400 medley relay-winning club simply picking the stroke, now, top three teams in the 400 medley relay for each gender (combined between each team’s top two squads) will play a role in selection. Additional changes include some slight shifts in event order, some additional points and prize money in certain spots, faster cutoff and jackpot times and the replacement of the mixed 400 free relay with a mixed 400 medley relay.

Led by stars Caeleb Dressel and Lilly King, the Cali Condors won the 2020 ISL title, with the season conducted entirely in Budapest in a bubble-like format. Energy Standard was the winner in the inaugural 2019 season.

Read the full press release from the ISL below.

The International Swimming League (ISL) has made several innovative changes to its technical rules for the upcoming 2021 season, with the updates put in place to deliver an improved product for both athletes and fans alike in Season 3.

Among the major changes being implemented is a shift in format for both the ISL Regular Season and Playoffs, the change in how the stroke is chosen for the high-value skins, and the addition of a new event.

ISL highlights some of the most important changes here:

Regular Season to feature Wild Card Match
The season will now have an 11-match regular season (as opposed to the previous 10), with each club competing four times throughout the first 10 matches. The bottom four ranked teams will then compete in a Wild Card Match, with the top two finishing clubs there advancing to the Playoffs.

Playoff Round extended to six matches
The ISL Playoff Round will now have six matches, rather than two semi-finals like in 2020. There will be two draws to determine four sets of pairs (two clubs grouped together), and then each pair will compete three times throughout the Playoff Round.

Upon the conclusion of the six playoff matches, the top four clubs from the Playoff Rankings will advance to the Final Match. Club scoring restarts at the beginning of the playoffs.

Three clubs now a part of skins selection process
Three clubs will now have a hand in selecting the stroke for the ever-important skins in each match during Season 3, though the winner of each respective gender’s 4×100 medley relay will still have the ultimate decision.

Each club’s aggregate points will be collected and ranked in the 4×100 medley relay (aggregate of the two relay squads of each club), and the top three teams will participate in the skins stroke selection process.

Club #3 will select one stroke to eliminate from the winner’s four options, Club #2 will select another stroke to be eliminated from the winner’s three remaining options, and then Club #1 (winners) will pick between the two remaining strokes.

This process will be done separately for both men and women.

Mixed Medley Relay added to event lineup
The mixed 4×100 medley relay has been added to the ISL event schedule for Season 3, taking the place of the mixed 4×100 freestyle relay.

Another slight change to the schedule has been made on Day 2, as the 100 breaststroke and 200 freestyle have switched places.

Additional points in 400 free and 400 IM
The 400 free and 400 IM will now award 53 points (instead of 37). The 400 free will award 16 points to the top 5 at the 100m checkpoint, and the 400 IM will offer 16 points to the top 5 at the 200m checkpoint.

Highlighted Additional Changes

  • Faster Jackpot times have been implemented in the men’s 100 fly, men’s 100 IM and all relay events.
  • Faster Cutoff times have been implemented for the men’s 100 back, men’s 100 breast, men’s 100 fly, men’s 100 IM and all relay events.
  • Additional prize money will now be awarded to
    • 5th and 6th place of each individual and relay event
    • 1st to 4th place at the checkpoints of the 400m events

You can find the full ISL 2021 Rulebook with all the changes here

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