Tuesday Toss: Game Of The Week Primer

March 5, 2024
By Evan Lepler

Less than two months away from opening night of the 2024 UFA season, anticipation continues to grow. The new ‘Association’ branding may still feel fresh and different, but the upcoming action on the field should be at the highest level we have ever seen. 

Quietly, teams have been training and practicing with intensity, building towards opening day. The full schedule’s been out for a few weeks now, and players know exactly who and what they are preparing for. 

The epic "Super Series" slate, announced early last month, consists mostly of inspired interdivisional matchups that will all be completely free to watch for frisbee fans worldwide. But even beyond the Super Series, there are countless other contests worthy of huge hype, and many of these will be featured on the new “Game of the Week” calendar. The “Game of the Week” will air exclusively on WatchUFA.tv, and it will definitely showcase some of the most meaningful moments during the 2024 season. 

Additionally, I am extraordinarily grateful for the chance to be on the call for many of these premier matchups, as I’ll be calling a mix of ‘Super Series’ and ‘Game of the Week’ broadcasts throughout the spring and summer. It’s truly an honor to enter my 10th season as the primary play-by-play voice of the UFA, a decade-long adventure that’s exceeded my wildest dreams for what this sport could be. 

Without further adieu, here are my initial thoughts on the all 13 "Game of the Week" showdowns. If you missed it, here’s my article from last month breaking down the 8 "Super Series" battles as well.

Week 1 | Atlanta Hustle at Carolina Flyers | Saturday, April 27
Series History: 23rd meeting, Carolina leads 13-9

After years of playing second-fiddle in the South, the Hustle reset the rivalry’s narrative in 2023. Atlanta claimed three of the four regular season meetings last season en route to their first-place finish atop the fiercely competitive South Division. This was no small feat, especially considering how the Flyers had prevailed in eight of the previous nine contests prior to the 2023 campaign. Consequently, the season opener on Carolina’s home turf will be critical for both teams as they look to begin their ultra-challenging schedules with a statement result. 

Week 2 | DC Breeze at Philadelphia Phoenix | Sunday, May 5
Series History: 30th meeting, DC leads 23-5-1

This will be a standalone Sunday game on WatchUFA.tv, the only game in the league scheduled for Cinco de Mayo, as the Philly Phoenix look to finally get over the hump against DC. Over the past two regular seasons, the Breeze have never outscored the Phoenix by multiple goals in regulation, but three one-goal wins along with a two-goal triumph in overtime have perpetuated DC’s long streak of success vs. Philadelphia. While the Breeze have gone 13-0-1 in their last 14 games against the Phoenix, that of course guarantees nothing in 2024, as the Hotbirds hope to break through after years of knocking on the door. 

Week 3 | Atlanta Hustle at Carolina Flyers | Saturday, May 11
Series History: 24th meeting, Carolina leads 13-9 (entering the season)

Seriously, the same matchup for the second time in three weeks? Yes, that’s how good a rivalry this is and how important these early season games will be. Have you seen Atlanta’s insane schedule? The first six games for the Hustle: at Carolina, vs. New York, at Carolina, at Indianapolis, at Colorado, vs. Austin. That’s the craziest six-game gauntlet in UFA history—and just to be clear, UFA history includes everything that happened over the past decade under the AUDL banner. Realistically, the Hustle would probably be thrilled to escape that stretch with three wins and a .500 record, but anything from 0-6 to 5-1 feels possible. No, I cannot fathom Atlanta emerging completely unblemished at the midseason mark, but as you presumably already know, I have been wrong before. 

Week 4 | Salt Lake Shred at Colorado Summit | Saturday, May 18
Series History: 6th meeting, Colorado leads 3-2

With all due respect to the rest of the West, the preseason presumption is clearly that the Shred and Summit will be two teams competing to be the best at the top of this intriguing division. It’s easy to think of Salt Lake as the de facto favorite due to their 12-0 record against divisional foes in 2023, but don’t forget that both contests against Colorado were narrow one-goal wins that could have gone either way. Salt Lake also has a sneaky tough early schedule, with their opening weekend Super Series home game against DC preceding four tricky road games: at San Diego, at LA, at Oakland, and at Colorado. By the way, the Aviators and Summit contests are both on the second day of back-to-backs for the Shred, who will have a much tougher trek toward Championship Weekend in 2024. Will Salt Lake absorb more losses before Memorial Day than they endured all of last season? It feels possible, if not likely. 

Week 5 | Chicago Union at Austin Sol | Saturday, May 25
Series History: 2nd meeting, Chicago leads 1-0

The only previous matchup between Chicago and Austin—a 24-21 Union victory on June 17, 2022—was one of the wildest games of the ’22 season. The Sol were in control for most of the first half and had the disc with a chance to go ahead 15-10 early in the third, when Chicago upped its defense and completely took over with a crazy 14-7 run over the game’s final 20 minutes. It was a turning point moment in the Union’s season, sparking a stretch of nine victories in their next 10 games on a journey all the way to the championship game against New York. Meanwhile, the Sol are coming off their own Championship Weekend appearance in ’23, and along with their road games at Carolina and Atlanta, this home date against Chicago can unquestionably be considered one of Austin’s biggest games of the season, perhaps a potential 2024 Championship Weekend preview. 

Week 6 | Carolina Flyers at Austin Sol | Friday, May 31
Series History: 16th meeting, Carolina leads 11-4

The Flyers clearly have the all-time edge in this rivalry, however Austin presently owns bragging rights after abruptly ending Carolina’s season in the playoffs last summer. The Sol have one fewer game against their inferior in-state brethren compared to last year, but that still boils down to seven games against the Legion and Havoc and five others against the Union, Flyers, and Hustle, with two apiece coming against Carolina and Atlanta. Austin earned some significant respect after their pair of memorable playoff performances en route to Championship Weekend, but my hunch is the oddsmakers would still have the Sol as a sizable underdogs on their quest to repeat as South Division champs. If they take care of business at home in Weeks 5 and 6 against Chicago and Carolina, however, the ultimate world will have no choice but to accept Austin as a bona fide contender again. 

Week 7 | New York Empire at DC Breeze | Saturday, June 8
Series History: 33rd meeting, New York leads 20-12

Interestingly, this is the first time since 2018 that New York and DC will not meet in the opening month of the season. In ’21 and ’22, the Empire and Breeze were adversaries in Week 1; in ’19 and ’23, they tangled in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively. So it’s been more than a half-decade since these perennial powers had the opportunity to truly develop for more than a month and discover their in-season identities prior to colliding for the first time. It’s not because their schedules have gotten easier; to the contrary, DC opens at Salt Lake and New York visits Atlanta—the site of their last regular season setback—in the opening two weeks of the season. The reigning champion Empire have won 11 of the last 12 meetings against the Breeze, but every one of those games has been decided by five goals or less, with New York defeating DC by just a single score five times in this stretch. 

Week 8 | Colorado Summit at Madison Radicals | Friday, June 14
Series History: 1st meeting

The first game of Colorado’s Central Division road trip, the Summit will battle the Radicals in Madison on Friday before facing the Wind Chill in Minnesota on Saturday. Colorado clobbered the Chill last summer in Golden, however the Summit’s lone opportunity to play at Breese Stevens Field in the past—at 2021 Championship Weekend—did not go well, as they scored the fewest goals in a game in franchise history, falling to Chicago 19-14. Still, Colorado will be regarded as the favorite against a Madison team that finished just 4-8 last season. There’s no easy road win at Breese Stevens, though, and the Radicals and their fans will likely find a way to keep it close and have a chance in the fourth quarter. 

Week 9 | Los Angeles Aviators at Salt Lake Shred | Friday, June 21
Series History: 7th meeting, Salt Lake leads 5-0 (entering the season)

Few prognosticators gave the Aviators a legit chance last August when they traveled to Utah for the West Division Championship Game, but Los Angeles played a flawless first quarter offensively and kept it close all the way through. Although the Shred escaped with a 23-20 victory, the Aviators earned plenty of respect in defeat. But that respect, among many, has perhaps gradually dissipated during the offseason. After all, the preseason chatter will likely contain the universal premise that the West is a battle between the Shred and the Summit, while the Aviators are just battling the Spiders, Growlers, and Cascades in pursuit of the third available playoff spot. But Los Angeles’s steady improvement during last year’s push does suggest that the Aviators will enter this upcoming campaign with a genuine confidence and belief. Considering that the 2024 championship goes through Salt Lake, this will be a critical contest for LA to illustrate how and if they are true title contenders. 

Week 10 | Carolina Flyers at DC Breeze | Friday, June 28
Series History: 8th meeting, DC leads 4-3

Few rivalries have consistently delivered thrilling moments and stunning highlights quite like the Flyers and the Breeze. Since their first collision back in 2017, every single showdown has been competitive, meaningful, and memorable. They squared off twice in 2023, with both prevailing on the road, but this is the lone scheduled matchup in ’24, only adding to the importance of the result. Obviously, the Flyers and Breeze are firmly embedded in the thick of their own divisional races, but their interdivisional results, particularly this late-June tussle, will significantly affect their standing in pursuit of home-field advantage and postseason success. 

Week 11 | Philadelphia Phoenix at Carolina Flyers | Saturday, July 6
Series History: 3rd meeting, Series tied 1-1

The Flyers did not have much time to enjoy their revenge win over DC last season. One night later, in Philadelphia, the Phoenix secured their own signature victory by sneaking past Carolina, 20-17. It will be a tougher test for the Hot Birds on the road against a rested Carolina squad this July, but Philly’s internal swagger remains elite. Furthermore, their interdivisional schedule—at Carolina, vs. Pittsburgh—is certainly less stressful than New York and DC’s, potentially giving the Phoenix an opening to maybe earn a home playoff game.

Week 12 | Los Angeles Aviators at Colorado Summit | Friday, July 12
Series History: 6th meeting, Colorado leads 4-1

Interestingly, the only 2024 regular season matchup between LA and Colorado comes on the penultimate weekend of the season. Prior to the playoffs last year, the Summit had gone 4-0 against the Aviators, winning by an average of 5.5 goals per game. But the narrative certainly changed on that memorable late-July evening last summer, when the Aviators stunned the Summit, 22-21. For Colorado, was that just one disappointing night or the start of a different era for Summit ultimate? For LA, can they build on that exhilarating victory and rise into the top tier of title contenders? These are the defining big picture questions that both teams carry heading into their season openers.

Week 13 | DC Breeze at New York Empire | Saturday, July 20 
Series History: 34th meeting, New York leads 20-12 (entering the season)

It’s impossible to know exactly what will be on the line during this Week 13 matchup, but there are plenty of possibilities, some tantalizing, others more insignificant. Certainly, this game could determine who wins the East and earns home-field in the playoffs. It also might be a story of the Empire deciding whether to give their all and go for a third consecutive undefeated season or to more cautiously cap their campaign by not wanting to give away the game plan in advance of another enticing playoff battle. Of course, the last time the Breeze and Empire battled in the final week of the regular season, DC destroyed New York 29-19, the Breeze’s ninth win in the series’ previous 10 games. But the rivalry flipped on its head a week later, when the Empire prevailed 19-15 over the Breeze during an unforgettable playoff monsoon on July 21, 2018. Since then, New York’s gone an unbelievable 11-1 against DC.