The Federation of International Lacrosse took another step toward Olympic inclusion Friday in Tokyo, Japan, when the IOC Executive Board announced provisional recognition for the sport, along with sambo and kick boxing.

The release says that the FIL will enter a three-year recognition period during which the federation “will now be able to receive funding from the IOC and can apply for development programmes, while full recognition has to be granted by the IOC Session.”

This news comes as part of the IOC Executive Board’s regular meeting schedule, and is the most significant step in in the sport (and, more particularly, the FIL’s) long journey back to the Olympic Games.

Since the formalized “merging” of the men’s and women’s international lacrosse federations in 2008, the FIL has moved along a direct path toward IOC recognition. A first step was adopting World Anti-Doping Agency policies. A second was joining Sport Accord. A third was acceptance into the International World Games Association and participation in 2017’s competition in Poland.

While the FIL continues its business of conducting world championships (with the girls U-19 championship set for next summer in Ontario), the sport will take another step forward on the international sporting stage when both men’s and women’s lacrosse compete in the 2021 International World Games, hosted in Birmingham, Ala. That event will feature 30 sports and 3,600 athletes from more than 100 countries, and lacrosse’s increased presence will represent the sport’s high-water mark among multi-sport competitions over the last nearly 100 years.

Concurrent with the administrative advancement, effort has begun to re-examine the ruleset that will increase the likelihood for lacrosse to be included as a competition sport in the Olympics. The IOC has voiced considerations to the FIL over the last several years that certain alterations would increase the likelihood: reducing roster sizes, unifying the field lines between men’s and women’s and speeding game play/condensing game time.

In line with that, US Lacrosse — among others — has hosted events to examine the feasibility and quality of such alterations, most recently with the Women’s National Team’s exhibitions vs. all-star squads representing the WPLL and UWLX around the IWLCA President’s Cup in Fla.

In IL’s December 2017 issue, FIL CEO Jim Scherr explained how the process of determining the Olympic program had changed in recent years.

"The process [of sports being included in the Olympic program] has changed and evolved at the IOC and will probably continue to evolve over the foreseeable future, and certainly over the next couple of years. They previously had a concept where they had core sports and then they had a bullpen of provisional sports, and the IOC itself would decide which sports would come on the program and which would go off. They’ve since changed that to the concept of 310 events, 10,500 athletes — not just limited to core sports.

Given that concept, they’ve allowed the organizing committee to conduct the process and select sports that are relevant to youth and popular in that country, and make sense for sport legacy and staging those sports in that city for the Olympic games. Tokyo was the first city that conducted that process and they selected ve sports for inclusion in 2020 and they started in 2015, culminated in 2016. If you’re looking at that timeline for 2024, the games that’ll be held in Paris, then that’s 2020 — and that’s pretty quick given where we’re at today, but not ruling it out by any means. But L.A. in 2028 would be a much more realistic possibility. We’ll see that process evolve over time. But I’d think given the availability venues in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, the popularity of sport, collegiate and youth in L.A. and across young people in the U.S., gives the sport a strong argument in the U.S. market and I think makes it an ideal sport for inclusion in the 2028 program. But there are certainly a lot of steps between then and now."

Well, the next — and perhaps most significant — step has been taken