Rugby in the Americas is set to take the professional age again. Scheduled to kick off in spring 2018, Major League Rugby is coming. Big name teams are already signing on, with some serious talent coming in. That said, Major League Rugby does have some serious hurdles to overcome first. There are historic failures of other leagues. Also, the professional sports market is full of choices in the US and abroad.
Yet Major League Rugby (MLR) deserves your attention, even if you’ve not been exposed to rugby before. This is why:
History Means Nothing
Pro Rugby USA failed spectacularly in 2015/16. One season in and the league imploded, with acrimonious claims of deception from multiple sources. Money is still owed to players, and the fans rightly feel like they got screwed.
To be blunt though: that was then, this is now.
Firstly Major League Rugby has done something Pro Rugby USA didn’t do. For starters they, have been engaging with exiting Pro Rugby clubs; such as the Glendale Raptors/1924 Rugby (see below picture) and Austin Huns. In doing this, MLR is tapping into existing clubs/regions and their fan bases, who already have strong support from their communities.
These clubs have the infrastructure too, and the ability to succeed already. MLR simply gives them a conduit to take this nationally. The eight sides announced can develop, run combines and look to sign coaches and staffs.
Secondly, MLR is looking at regions with solid rugby pedigrees. Utah for example, has a strong Pacific contingent–thanks to the Church of Latter Day Saints–which has ties to BYU. The BYU Cougars Rugby team has a long history of support, as well as great coaching, giving the region a solid rugby base.
Seattle, and Texas also have fierce supporters and strong backing from rugby markets in Austin, Houston and Dallas. There are existing rivalries too, and stiff recent competition which will make for great watching.
So Why Should You Care?
Why should you care? Gift Egeblu of Giftime Rugby breaks it down for you with five reasons to jump on the bandwagon.
Note: many have pointed out to him that some footage shown was of former All Black Doug Howlett performing a solo Haka, when his Pro12 team Munster played the All Blacks.
But the key points expressed by Gift are true. Rugby brings that ‘bang, smash and crash’ that sports fan love. It also brings skills, technique and strategy.
But why should you, as a rugby fan, believe in Major League Rugby? Firstly, MLR have gone for a more intelligent approach than previous attempts. Securing talent, securing teams and actually having things in place BEFORE making announcements for example.
Secondly the teams are already generating their own interest in MLR. The Houston Strikers for example have launched a major social media presence. They are engaging with fans, and connecting with their audeince.
Thirdly, rugby in the USA has always been a sleeping giant. It has come close to erupting in the past, it’s not a case of ‘IF it’s a case of WHEN’. Soldier Field in Chicago has already played host two major International rugby tests that have sold out.
This weekend, the Aviva Premiership has brought Newcastle and Saracens over to Philadelphia for a round of the championship.
Those are all great reasons to follow MLR. The market is there, the fans are hungry, now it is about capitalizing on the groundswell support.
So Can Major League Rugby Work?
Well, yes is the short answer. The USA has a serious glut of talented players. The game is developing at club level. It is becoming accessible more and more in colleges. And critically, Rugby is being shown on television in the US. World Rugby signed a huge deal with NBC, and the advantage of that relationship are pivotal across all markets.
Pro Rugby IS coming to the US. Yes, it’s taking it’s time. But Major League Soccer didn’t happen overnight. The majority of rugby commentators believe Major League Rugby has the right pedigree, and the right backing to work. When examining the concept, I believe the management has the right mindset to make this work.
Now is the time to get on board; check out Major League Rugby’s website and keep up with the play.
Major League Rugby Teams:
- 1924 Rugby (Glendale, CO)
- Blues Rugby Management (Kansas City, MO)
- DFW Major Rugby (Dallas, TX)
- Houston Strikers (Houston, TX)
- Huns Rugby Management (Austin, TX)
- NOLA Rugby Enterprises (New Orleans, LA)
- Seattle Rugby LLC (Seattle, WA)
- Rugby Utah Ventures (Salt Lake City, UT)
Main Image Credit: via Major League Rugby Facebook