International Swimming League

The International Swimming League (ISL) is an annual professional swimming league, established in 2019. It features a team-based competition format with fast-paced race sessions. The regular season starts in October and the Final Match is held in December.

International Swimming League
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2019 International Swimming League
CEOAli Khan
PresidentKonstantin Grigorishin
No. of teams10
Official website

Athletes previously disqualified for breaking anti-doping rules are banned from ISL.[1]


FINA-ISL disputeEdit

At the start of the 2018 season, the only major annual swimming tournament sanctioned by FINA was FINA Swimming World Cup. In order to ensure swimming greater visibility through a new team-based format, a new organization - founded in 2017 and named International Swimming League - was presented in Anaheim on September 2018, based on the idea of Ukrainian billionaire Konstantin Grigorishin[2]: the inaugural event of the new league would have been the annual meeting Energy for Swim (held for the first time in 2017 and scheduled for 20–21 December in Turin, in that season).[3] In June, FINA sent a letter to all 209 federations, urging them not to cooperate with ISL.[4]

After clarifying the interpretation of a rule included in section 4.5 of FINA general rules,[5] FINA stated that the Energy for swim meet was now classified as an international event for that season, given that "a competition which is conceptually designed to have a majority of foreign participants is not a national competition”, and thus it needed to be approved within the ordinary six-month window.[6]

Since the approval window was already expired, the athletes participating in that meet would have been disqualified from one to two years by FINA and any world records set during the event would not have been recognized.

The negotiations between the parties officially broke down on 15 November 2018, eventually leading to Energy for Swim meet cancellation.[7]


Despite negotiations failure between FINA, ISL and Energy for Standard Group - that would have organized Energy for Standard meet along with FIN - several athletes sustained the new idea of a team-based swimming competition (among which Katinka Hosszu and Adam Peaty). FINA announced on December 2018 the creation of a brand new league, called FINA Champions Swim Series.[8]. The first ISL team to be officially announced was German side ONEFlow Aquatics (that wouldn't have taken part to the inaugural season, eventually) on January 2019, after which ISL announced also the remaining three European teams and the four American teams in the following months.[9]
Meanwhile, ISL also presented a newly formed representation company - ISL USA - which would have staged the semifinals and Final Match, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, and assisted the new US clubs in their operations (including scouting talent, signing athletes and running their own swimming meets).[10] A crucial step towards the creation of ISL was made when FINA announced that athletes taking part to Non-FINA sanctioned events wouldn't have been banned and that similar competitions would be allowed, also confirming that all the world records set in the first two stages wouldn't have been considered (because of clashing with World Cup events).[11][12]
In June 2019, ISL released the schedule of the league inaugural season, that officially started on the first week of the following October.[13]


The inaugural league debuted with eight teams across two conferences, four from the United States, and four from Europe. Each team appeared in a pair of inter-conference matches involving two teams from each conference, one in America and one in Europe, and a "derby" match involving all four teams from its own conference. The top two teams in each conference met in a Grand final in Las Vegas.

At the 2019 Grand Final, the ISL announced a further two franchises, as yet unnamed, would be joining an expanded ISL for 2020; one from Toronto and one from Tokyo. Toronto will be joining the Americas Conference, while Tokyo will join a renamed European-Asian Conference. In addition, a much larger match programme, with a minimum of ten matches per team (up from 3 in 2019) was announced.[14]

Team City Joined General Manager Head Coach
Americas Conference
D.C. Trident   Washington, D.C. 2019 Kaitlin Sandeno Cyndi Gallagher
L.A. Current   Los Angeles 2019 Lenny Krayzelburg David Marsh
New York Breakers   New York City 2019 Tina Andrew Peter Andrew
Cali Condors   San Francisco 2019 Jason Lezak Gregg Troy
Toronto Titans   Toronto 2020 Robert Kent
European-Asian Conference
Energy Standard   Paris 2019 Jean-Francois Pimiento James Gibson
London Roar   London 2019 Rob Woodhouse Mel Marshall
Team Iron   Budapest 2019 Dorina Szekeres Arpad Petrov
Jozsef Nagy
Aqua Centurions   Rome 2019 Alessandra Guerra Matteo Giunta
ISL Tokyo   Tokyo 2020 Kosuke Kitajima


All the stages comprise four clubs and are set to take place on two days, with two 2 hours long sessions including two short breaks each. In each event, all the clubs competing must line up two athletes (and also two teams in the relays), with a random and consistent line assignment throughout the day.[15] Line-ups changes can be submitted twice during the day: by the 2’ mark into the first break for sessions 2 and 3 or by the 2’ mark into the second break, for session 3. A total of 38 races, among individual events, relay and skin races, is held during one stage (the 4x50 medley mixed relay will only be held if two teams tie in points at the end of all the previous races).[15]
Points are awarded to the teams at the end of each match as follows:

Place 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Points 4 3 2 1

The two American and European teams with most points in standings at the end of the regular season advance to the Final Match (if two teams are tied, cumulative points of these clubs will be taken into account and if still tied there will be a swim-off, which will be 4x50 medley mixed).
The scoring for each individual event is as follows (relays races will score double the points):[15]

Place 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th DNF DSQ DNS
Points 9 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 -2 -4

Relay racesEdit

A particular points scoring system has been introduced for relay races, which score double points than individual events. In order to force athletes to put their best forward every time they step on the blocks and to avoid a lack of engagement, minimum time standards have been established. If a relay or swimmer is slower than the times indicated in the table below, it gets a penalty of points A relay slower than the time standard gets 2 points deducted whereas an athlete slower than the respective time indicated gets instead 1 point of penalty. On the table all the minimum time standards (SCM) for every event compared to world records.

Place 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th
Points 18 14 12 10 8 6 4 2
Distance Men World Record   Women World Record
Freestyle 50 22.50 20.26 25.50 22.93
100 49.50 44.94 55.00 50.25
200 1:49.50 1:39.37 1:58.50 1:50.43
400 3:50.50 3:32.25 4:10.00 3:53.92
Backstroke 50 25.00 22.22 28.50 25.67
100 54.00 48.88 1:01.00 55.03
200 1:58.00 1:45.63 2:11.00 1:59.23
Breaststroke 50 28.50 25.25 31.50 28.56
100 1:00.00 55.61 1:08.50 1:02.36
200 2:12.00 2:00.16 2:28.50 2:14.57
Butterfly 50 24.00 21.75 26.50 24.38
100 53.00 48.08 58.50 54.61
200 1:59.50 1:48.24 2:12.00 1:59.61
Individual Medley 200 2:01.00 1:49.63 2:13.50 2:01.86
400 4:19.00 3:55.50 4:46.50 4:18.94
Freestyle Relay 4x100 3:17.00 3:03.03 3:39.00 3:26.53
Medley Relay 4x100 3:35.50 3:19.16 4:02.00 3:45.20
Mixed freestyle 4x100 3:28.00

Skin racesEdit

A skin race is a series of back-to-back-to-back 50 meters (SCM) freestyle races, operating on a knockout basis: First round four swimmers are eliminated (out of 8), second round two swimmers are knocked out, 3rd and last round thus consists of only two swimmers racing each other in a head-to-head final race. Skin races’ rounds are held every 3 minutes. The athletes can warm down in the pool or can get a short massage from their team's physiotherapist behind the blocks between each round until the 3 minutes are done. The athletes knocked out of the race must return to their team’s area.
The lanes, that the qualified athletes will use in the following round, are to be determined according to their team’s lane assignment for the day.[15] ISL skin races score as follows:

Place DNS DNF DSQ 8th 7th 6th 5th 4th 3rd 2nd 1st
Round 1 Points -4 -2 1 2 3 4
Round 2 Points -8 -4 10 12
Round 3 Points -12 -6 21 27


An MVP is selected after each match and at the end of the season. The criteria for such selections are the number of points towards the team score, that the swimmer has accumulated during the match and the season respectively.[15] Each time, only one MVP can be elected and can be both a woman or a man. The MVP prize at the end of each match rewards a 5,000$ bonus.


A points system – awarding from 6 down to 1 point for the top four athletes (and teams) in each event– has been created to establish how the prize money should be divided (relays score double points, skin races score triple points).[15][16] Based on how many points an athlete scored and on how many matches he attended, the prize money can further increase if his team has qualified for the Final Match.

Prize money Details
$ 10000 per swimmers in winner Club at Final Match
$ 5000 per swimmers in second-placed Club at Final Match
$ 3000 per swimmers in third-placed Club at Final Match
$ 1000 per swimmers in fourth-placed Club at Final Match
per point in Final Match (per swimmer)
per match attended (per swimmer)
per match attended at Final Match (per swimmer)
$ 300 per point in regular season matches

The prize money leader of the inaugural season was Sarah Sjostrom with a total of $139,700.[17][18]


The first season budget of US$20m was funded by International Swimming League founder Konstantin Grigorishin, a Ukrainian-Russian billionaire.[19]

Results by seasonEdit

Season Rds Champion Second Third Fourth
2019 7   Energy Standard   London Roar   Cali Condors   LA Current


  1. ^ "Competition format". ISL. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  2. ^ Making a splash: new big-money competition shakes up swimming, The Guardian (18 June 2019)
  3. ^ "International Swimming League Presents At The 2018 ASCA World Clinic". SwimSwam. 8 September 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  4. ^ "Memorandum to all FINA members" (pdf). Inside the games. 5 June 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  5. ^ "FINA General Rules" (pdf). FINA. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  6. ^ "FINA Rule Interpretation Could Outlaw Energy For Swim Meet". SwimSwam. 2 November 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Rival swimming competition cancelled after FINA threaten action against swimmers". Inside the games. 16 November 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  8. ^ "PR 107 - FINA approves new world-class swimming event". FINA. 13 December 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  9. ^ "ONEFlow Aquatic Announced as Newest Team in ISL". SwimSwam. 10 January 2019. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  10. ^ "The ISL USA is Now Officially Up And Running". ISL. 24 January 2019. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  11. ^ "FINA Provides Clarification on Athlete Participation in International Competitions". Swimming World Magazine. 15 January 2019. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  12. ^ "FINA 'Would Approve League World Records To Avoid Escalation Of Swimmers' Revolution'". Swimming World Magazine. 8 October 2019. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  13. ^ "INTERNATIONAL SWIMMING LEAGUE ANNOUNCES CITIES AND VENUES". ISL. 21 June 2019. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  14. ^ ISL League final recap, Toronto and Tokyo added for 2020
  15. ^ a b c d e f "ISL 2019 technical information". ISL. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  16. ^ Each swimmer receives 25% of team’s relay points.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Grigorishin said that between $6 million". 7 March 2019. Retrieved 2020-02-06.