by David Herman

UTICA, NY — The North American Invitational (also known as "LAXNAI"), the world's largest international box lacrosse tournament, will fill the three rinks at the Utica University Nexus Center with 48 teams competing across Men's, Women's, U-18 Boys and U-15 Boys Divisions the weekend of September 28-October 1.

The event is the first lacrosse tournament to utilize the entirety of the Utica University Nexus Center, which opened in November of 2022 and also serves as a competition hub for hockey and indoor soccer.  The tournament will serve as a dry run of sorts for the 2024 World Lacrosse Box Championships, which will be held primarily in the Utica University Nexus Center from September 13-22, 2024.

Several men's and women's international squads are expected to use LAXNAI for tryout, training and development camps ahead of Worlds, including the Haudenosaunee Nationals, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland and US Virgin Islands.

"We are so excited to welcome LAXNAI back to Utica this Fall," said Robert Esche, CEO of Mohawk Valley Garden. "The Utica University Nexus Center is quickly becoming the preeminent venue for box lacrosse in the United States and it's fitting that the world's biggest tournament will again take place in Utica just one year before our World Championships."

The 2022 Invitational was held at Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium, a 3,956-seat multi-purpose arena and home of the Utica Comets. With the Utica University Nexus Center still under construction, an outdoor box was erected in the parking lot to accommodate the massive tournament.  The Rochester Bats claimed the Men's Championship after topping Goldstar Tel Aviv and a 24-team field to hoist the coveted wooden trophy. The Iroquois Thunder won the U-18 title, while the Bangers (Haudenosaunee) dominated the U-15 division. Most notably, Utica-based Tri-City Lacrosse edged the Six Nations Snipers in a memorable women's exhibition that has inspired to launch of a full Women's tournament in 2023.

"The NAI has quickly built a storied tradition of high level competition, and we're so excited to add women's box lacrosse to that tradition," said LAXNAI co-founder Connor Wilson. "Most exciting is our new host facility in the Utica University Nexus Center, which gives us the opportunity to bring our entire community together under one roof. We expect that the atmosphere will be electric"

Registration across all four divisions for returning [2022] teams is now open, with invitations being sent out to new squads early next week. Interested parties should contact info@laxnai.com.

The North American Invitational, the continent's preemeninent annual box lacrosse tournament, launched in 2016 on the heels of the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships held at Onondaga Nation. The inaugural event, loosely modeled after Czech Republic’s Aleš Hřebeský Memorial, featured just 12 teams but will be capped at 48 entries across multiple divisions in 2023.

The tournament is always chock full of pro players shaking off the rust ahead of NLL camps, as well as dozens of international and NCAA stars, and amateur prospects looking to prove their worth against the world’s best. Teams from not just across the continent, but from abroad, have competed in the NAI, such as Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Jamaica, Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico and Scotland. For more information on the North American Invitational, visit www.LAXNAI.com.

The Utica University Nexus Center features three playing surfaces within the state-of-the-art, 169,440-square-foot facility, which serves as the home of the NABLL's Utica Yeti, as well as the Utica University women's hockey team. For more information on Nexus Center, visit www.nexusutica.com.