Major League Rugby
Major League Rugby finalists, the San Diego Legion and Seattle Seawolves play for the championship on Saturday, June 16, at Torero Stadium, California. (Image credit, MLR website)

After a second season for Major League Rugby in the United States, it will be an all ‘West Coast’ grand final this weekend; San Diego Legion v Seattle Seawolves.

This region now assumes the hotbed of rugby union in the US, with the Legion set to host the 2019 grand final at Torero Stadium, California.

This shift from the East Coast may be a new dawn, as the game in the States begins to hold more attention. From hosting the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament in 2018, to the widespread coverage on CBS-SN and ESPN+. Boosting the status of rugby as a major sport in North America – with the MLR final set to break new ground on Sunday, June 16.

All ‘West Coast’ grand final for Major League Rugby

Reaching the final is a success in itself. Competing across a season that began in January, the 16 game schedule saw a great example of the high-quality rugby that has been developed in the United States and Canada.

At the end of the season, the two top seeded sides were the San Diego Legion (1), followed by the Seattle Seawolves. Each side suffered only the one loss a piece – that loss for Seattle occurred at the hands of San Diego. On that day, the Legion triumphed 28-20.

the two sides face-off on sunday, this time for the championship.

On this larger stage, will the Washington state side produce a more powerful attempt to wrestle their neighbours, for the title? Only time will tell, with the anticipation building up til the 4pm start.

The two sides progression to the final, via two gripping semifinals, has shown that the Major League Rugby competition is a success story. In its second year, the all-American league has been boosted by additional sides – each of whom reached the playoffs.

The Toronto Arrows have been wonderfully received by their fanbase. Based in Ontario, the Canadian franchise ended the season with a flourish of victories, that almost saw them storm into the final. They were only stopped by 30-17 by the more composed Seawolves.

In the other semifinal, a more confronting opponent quite nearly upset the table-topping Legion. Rugby United New York were a powerful entry into the 2019 Major League Rugby competition, with the hopes of the established ‘East Coast’ stakeholders looking to solidify their historical dominance.

However, the West Coast sides have proven that the balance is now even – quite possibly leveraged now in favour of teams located on the Western edge of the Rocky Mountains.

Massive growth of MLR to continue in 2020

“On behalf of the league, congratulations to the San Diego Legion and Seattle Seawolves for making it to the MLR Championship,” said Dean Howes, Commissioner of Major League Rugby. “Rugby fans are in for a great match. Each team has a tremendous amount of heart and talent and Seattle is out to win its second consecutive championship. We can’t wait until Sunday to watch what will surely be a fast-paced, memorable final.”

Launched in 2018, MLR continues to experience solid growth. This is due in large part to strategic expansion, fan-first decision-making, and the game being one of the fastest growing sports in the United States.

The proof is in the numbers:

  • Unique viewers of MLR games are up by 47% compared to the 2018 season
  • Overall number of MLR games continues to rise:
    • 31 in 2018
    • 75 in 2019
    • 101 in 2020

With the nine-team league set to expand to 12 as Boston, Atlanta, and Washington DC join for the 2020 season, MLR is bringing rugby into the mainstream.

Popularity of Rugby Union in the USA the ‘real goal’

With the second season of Major League Rugby gaining a foothold in the busy US sports market, the ‘real goal’ is to cement the sport as a legitimate challenge. Rising to push the dominance of American Football, as an option for the College system to invest in.

The growth of any sport is in its youth development. From the classroom to the club rugby grounds, boys and girls are the growth area where rugby can continue to build from. That is on both coasts, as well as the midwest and Southern States. All regions represented in the MLR roster.

Supporting the popularity of rugby in Colleges and Universities across North America, is the success of rugby sevens. This has always been optional, with the reduced field of only seven players, instead of 15. It is the faster, more industrious version of the game, which in the 2018/19 HSBC Sevens Series, the US men’s team performed more than admirably.

Recognition of the major improvement in the performance of both the men’s and women’s teams will swell the support base of the sport. More cut-through in news coverage, promotion, and (hopefully) participation.

Every success that MLR and rugby union as a game can display, will pay rewards in the future. No matter which side of the continent they represent, whichever team this weekend claims the Major League Rugby 2019 title, can be the standard bearer for the current state of rugby in North America.

MLR Championship Final: 4pm (EST) Torero Stadium, San Diego

San Diego Legion v Seattle Seawolves – Sunday, June 16

 

“Main photo credit – MLR website”

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