Will the U.S. Ever Care About Rugby?

By Lucas Peltier

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Photo courtesy by the Rebel Report

Rugby is perhaps one of England’s crown jewels in the sporting world played by almost 10 million men and women across the globe, as well as an Olympic sport.  So why hasn’t it taken off in the United States?

Short answer is because it’s not football.

In many ways, football is a distant cousin to rugby and echoes what it used to be before its players wore helmets and shoulder pads – it can even be debated that rugby players are tougher since they don’t wear any gear.  However, the NFL has been around for almost 100 years, embedded in the lives of households and team colors are passed down from each generation.  Rugby, on the other hand, went pro in 2017 with the Major League Rugby (MLR) after its first attempt to establish a professional league collapsed due to unpaid salaries for its players.  Yet, despite having teams like the Seattle Seawolves or the Toronto Arrows, rugby has a lot of catching up to do before surpassing its American gridiron counterpart ­– which was evident this last week when the MLR kicked off its third regular season at Sam Boyd Stadium with about 100 people in attendance. _LPP7361Photo courtesy by the Rebel Report

Not to say that there have been successful rugby events in Vegas in the past.  The USA Sevens, the largest annual rugby tournament in the U.S., brought in more than 80,000 attendees to Sam Boyd in 2018.  However, the USA Sevens is an international competition.  Countries like South Africa, New Zealand, and Argentina gathered to compete in Vegas, which of course, drew in a lot of fans from various countries (a far cry to the 100 people who showed up for the MLR competition).

There is hope for rugby though.  The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is just around the corner and rugby is expected to take the most important stage in sports – cable television.  So who’s to say if rugby will get a boost in popularity after the Olympics (after all, cornhole competitions are now aired on ESPN).  Maybe we’ll see people walking around wearing Seattle Seawolves jerseys in the future.

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