By Alfie Martin
With its presence growing at an unprecedented rate, is America the new powerhouse in World Rugby?
It’s the fastest growing sport in the country, and with the 2019 Rugby World Cup poking its head around the corner Rugby Union is all set for its big breakthrough in America.
We’ve seen a rumbling of interest begin to stir across the world with the introduction of the Rugby 7s Championships; a top flight international tournament (just with half the players). It’s fast, it’s exciting, it’s full of skill. It’s even an Olympic sport.
So really it’s no big surprise that Rugby Union has made a name for itself in the World’s wealthiest sport nation. After all, this is the country renowned for leading the pack for Basketball, Baseball and of course American Football. More and more people’s heads are turning at the prospect of a new sport to sink their teeth into. Major League Rugby (MLR) could just be that sport.
RUGBY 7S – WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
The traditional game’s younger brother, Rugby 7s, has also been working hard at making a name for itself on the international stage. While it’s been around since the 70s, a real interest in the 7s game was ignited at the induction into the Olympic line-up at Rio 2016, which gave both male and female teams the opportunity to shine. This would prove to be a huge turning point for the Americans, who claimed the number one spot in Las Vegas in the 2018 World 7s Series for the first time on home soil.
The seed was planted. Professional Rugby blossomed in the 2018 season, taking the name ‘US Major League Rugby’. Since its inaugural season at the beginning of 2018, from which only 7 teams from across the country participated, Major League Rugby’s name has become recognised Nationwide as a professional sport of skill, characterised by true American passion and personality.
And its ripples have been felt all the way up to the biggest stage of them all. The USA Eagles national rugby team has no doubt felt the surge of support and pride radiating from the ground up. History was made just months ago in Houston as the Eagles found themselves pitted against Scotland, a tier 1 nation known for their world-class line up and unpredictability in open play. Many had written off the new kids on the block before the first whistle, the odds were against them. They won 30-29. A slim victory in terms of the game, but a defining milestone in the history of American Sport.
SO WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Good question. It goes without saying that the only way is up; This 2018/2019 season sees two more teams inducted into the MLR scene: Toronto Arrows and Rugby United New York. 2020 will see a further three teams from Atlanta, New England and Washington looking to claim their spot on the podium, with scope to expand even further in years to come.
Next year’s Rugby World Cup will undoubtedly skyrocket America to greater heights in the World Rugby standings. They’ve proven, and continue to prove their worth as a strengthening nation with home-growth talent of the MLR shining through onto the big stage.