International Swimming League Season 2 Launched With New Teams, Rules, Eyes On Tokyo For The Grand Final

Foto Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse 20 Dicembre 2019 Las Vegas - USAsport nuoto 2019 ISL - International Swimming LeagueNella foto: Trofeo Photo Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse December 20, 2019 Las Vegas - USAsport swimming 2019 ISL - International Swimming League In the picture: trophy
The International Swimming League - Photo Courtesy: Fabio Ferrari/lapresse

The second season of the International Swimming League (ISL) has been launched with two additional teams, new rules  and a possible trip to Tokyo for the grand final in December.

ISL founder Konstantin Grigorishin, technical director Apostolos Tsagkarakis and Hubert Montcoudiol, head of commercial operations, appeared in a virtual press conference in Paris with a picture of Florent Manaudou – whose appearance in the skins decider at the grand final ensured victory for Energy Standard last season – as backdrop.

Konstantin Grigorishin

Konstantin Grigorishin Photo Courtesy: International Swimming League

Grigorishin talked of “sportainment” – performance plus entertainment – and allowing spectators not only to observe but to interact – “they would like to be actors,” he stated.

So too did the Ukrainian emphasise the nature of the competition where claiming points for your team is paramount.

He said:

“For us records and time is not a big issue any more. Time is more a modern thing. It is more like a scientific experiment but when we are talking about post-modern competition: we don’t have time, we have to have some eternal achievements.

“If you are creating superheroes, if you are creating legends – it should be eternal.

“For instance, Johnny Weismuller. The swimmer who first swam faster than one minute in the 100 freestyle. Now even 13-year-old girls can do this – I cannot – but it doesn’t mean Johnny Weismuller was not a superhero.

“So because he was the best of the best: he was the best of that time and it should be some eternal achievement.

“In our competition you just have to be the first spot: the time is not so important.”

The trio released details of the 2020 season which will launch in Budapest, Hungary, on 16 October with confirmation the league will feature 10 teams – two more than in the inaugural campaign – with the Toronto Titans and Tokyo Frog Kings joining the fray, the latter adopting the nickname of their general manager and four-time Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima.

International Swimming League rule changes include a twist to the skins – a series of back-to-back races which operate on a knockout basis, with the two remaining swimmers racing each other in a head-to-head final.


Adam Peaty: Photo Courtesy: GM D`Alberto

  • This season the head coach of the winning men’s and women’s 4x100m medley relays will choose which stroke will be contested. For example, should London Roar be in pole position, they could look to the presence of Adam Peaty and Kirill Prigoda and select breaststroke whereas last year it was only freestyle.
  • So too will there be points awarded after each round of the skins, another new innovation.
  • Another addition is the jackpot time rule. Jackpot times are determined in advance: for instance, 1.35secs in the men’s 100 free. If the winner touches in 45secs, all those who are slower than 46.35 forfeit their points to the man who stopped the clock first.

Thereotically, that means an athlete can earn the full 37 points for their team should they finish the given margin ahead of the entire field. It also applies to relays and skins.

  • The 100IM for men and women have been added and will bring the programme to a close at the end of the second day where it was the skins that concluded the meet last season.
  • In an echo of VAR technology in football, a head coach can dispute disqualifications on starts or relay exchanges using the video system referee.
  • Line-ups will be provided in advance but the head coach has the opportunity to change which athletes are going to swim in each event during the two breaks in the match each day.
  • Teams are allocated their own lanes eliminating confusion and making them recognisable.
  • So too ratings which are applied to swimmers to offer more insight to the fans with greater engagement the aim.
  • There are point penalties for the clubs in case of a swimmer’s disqualification or no-show in a race.
  • There are also cut-off time that the swimmers need to be inside. If they swim slower than those times, they are penalised (-1 for individual races and -2 for relay races).
  • All athletes will be paid $1500 per month from September 2020 to July 2021 when the rescheduled Olympic Games will take place.

There are:

  • Ten teams with four competing in each match. Each team will have two athletes per event and two squads per relay event.
  • Each team has 32 swimmers on their roster – 16 men and 16 women – and 28 will compete in each match.
  • There will be 32 individual races, five relay events and two skins events.
  • Each athlete scores points according to their ranking with the winner getting nine points, the runner-up seven points and the third six in descending order with the eighth-placed swimmer taking home one point.

US team rosters
European team rosters

The International Swimming League season will start in Budapest with everyone associated with the event assured of their entry to Hungary despite the borders having again recently been closed due to an increase in Covid.

There will be strict medical protocols including the housing of athletes in single rooms on Margaret Island and each team allocated their own training pool.

Swimmers will be tested twice for Covid-19 before leaving their country of origin and then twice in Budapest before they can be cleared to train with athletes to be tested every five days.

International Swimming League competition will take place without spectators with five matches in October starting on 16 of that month.

That will be followed by a further five from 15 November to decide the top eight teams who will qualify for the semi-finals held from 19-22 November.

The top four will then progress to the final to be held in late December – date to be confirmed – and with Tokyo as the desired destination.


Sarah Sjostrom – Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Sarah Sjostrom, last season’s MVP (most valuable player) and Energy Standard member, said:

“It was great to race last year: it was something new for me to race for a team, it was really exciting.

“I have high expectations for the next season but it is all a little bit strange.

“I just want to get back in the water and be racing again.”


Montcoudiol revealed plans to strike deals with top broadcasters in the United States and Europe which suggest International Swimming League meets could be broadcast live in more than 80 countries.

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  1. Eddie Wilmott

    Excellent competition.
    Was priviledged to Chair the JoA last year at the London Aquatic Centre.