UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – The North American Invitational, LAXNAI, is one of the top international box lacrosse tournaments in the world, and after a two-year COVID pause came back with a vengeance to the Adirondack Bank Center in 2022. The 24-team tournament concluded with the Rochester Bats hoisting the trophy, and the organizers thought that it went so well that the tournament returned in 2023.

34 men’s teams are participating in the tournament that started on Thursday afternoon, with separate brackets for the Under-18’s and Under15’s along with a women’s tournament for the first time that includes eight squads. The champions of each will be crowned at the event’s conclusion on Sunday.

Contrary to last year’s LAXNAI, which was hosted at the Adirondack Bank Center and had a secondary field set up in the parking lot outside the building, this year’s is being held at the Utica University Nexus Center. Every game is being held indoors and the highlight contests are on the Mastrovito Hyundai Rink, the main surface at Nexus.

This is also a preview of what is to come when the World Box Lacrosse Championships come to the city in exactly a year, some of the teams and players who will play in that are already here. The national teams representing the U.S. Virgin Islands and Poland are competing alongside two teams of United States roster hopeful. Among other notable teams the reigning champions, Rochester, return, along with the hometown Utica Yeti and one of the division regular season foes, the Thousand Island Spirits.