A new elite-level club competition is coming to America. Initially a group of five teams forming the ‘Major Rugby Championship’, the group has now expanded to nine with plans to begin formally under the ‘Major League Rugby’ name in 2018. While the new-found competition has not explicitly stated its intentions to become fully professional, some of the members are already paying their players, most notably the Austin Huns who are currently playing a series of friendlies with their ‘Elite Squad’. The full list of participating clubs (and management entities) is as follows:
Austin Huns (Huns Rugby Management)
Chicago Lions (Chicago Lions Professional Rugby)
Dallas Griffins (DFW Major Rugby)
Glendale Raptors (1924 Rugby)
Kansas City Blues (Blues Rugby Management)
New Orleans RFC (NOLA Rugby Enterprises)
Rugby Utah (Rugby Utah Ventures)
Seattle Saracens (Seattle Rugby LLC)
It’s unclear at this time how this will affect the future of PRO Rugby, which remains sanctioned as the exclusive professional domestic 15-a-side competition despite currently having no players or coaches on contract, and no immediate plans for a 2017 season. PRO’s three-year license agreement with USA Rugby expires in April of 2018, with a 180-day notice of non-renewal clause available to USAR should it choose not to extend the permit.
An exclusive sanction for professional 7s in the USA remains with Grand Prix Entertainment, though the trademarked use of ‘Major League Rugby’ has now been acquired by the new group. While further details are still to be revealed, sources have indicated to Americas Rugby News that several sponsors have shown interest, including insurance giants AIG, already strong supporters of USA Rugby. A media announcement scheduled for earlier today was briefly released on social media but has now been withdrawn, set to be re-released later this evening.