USA Rugby and expanding MLR in development pact
USA Rugby, the governing body for rugby union in the country, and Major League Rugby, the nascent professional competition in North America, have entered a strategic partnership aimed at developing the sport stateside.
Under the agreement, USA Rugby and MLR have established a framework for collaboration in areas including: driving rugby’s growth as a participation sport; high performance pathways to ensure that MLR and the men’s national team are capturing the best available talent; and initiatives to propel rugby’s visibility and relevance in the North American sports landscape.
In addition, a professional advisory board is to be established with representatives from both organisations and one from World Rugby, the sport's governing body, which will look to streamline communications and action items in the interests of developing the professionalism of the sport in USA.
MLR launched in 2018 as the latest attempt to develop professional rugby union in North America, and has expanded from seven to nine teams, with new entrants in Rugby United New York and Canada's Toronto Arrows.
It was announced last week that the league will grow to 12 teams, split into two conferences, in 2020, with the addition of the New England Free Jacks, Atlanta's Rugby ATL and Old Glory DC, a Washington DC-based outfit which Scottish Rugby has a stake.
Ross Young, USA Rugby chief executive, said: “It’s been exciting over this first year and half with Major League Rugby, evaluating strengths and challenges in lead up to this completed agreement. The advent of professional rugby is such a substantial step in advancement of the game, so we’re happy to have built a robust partnership to best find mutual support in each other.”
MLR commissioner Dean Howes added: “This partnership is critical for rugby to reach its full potential in the United States. We have created the foundations of a partnership that aligns our goals so that we can work together to grow rugby’s share of the American sports market from youth participation through to MLR and the US national teams.”
USA have played in all but one of the eight Rugby World Cups without ever progressing beyond the pool stages.
The team has been drawn in the same group as England, France, Argentina and Tonga for this year’s tournament in Japan.