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Nine teams confirmed for Major League Rugby 2018

The first official press release from Major League Rugby has arrived a few weeks earlier than expected. In it is confirmation that nine cities will take part in the inaugural season, with one deviation from the original list reported in February. The rumor of a team in Minneapolis has been confirmed though not explicitly connected to Metropolis Rugby Club. Now missing from the group is Chicago, with the proposed association with the Lions now seemingly pushed to 2019, though a ‘final team and venue list’ is due to be released later this year suggesting that more teams may yet be added for 2018.

Also of interest is that the release was delivered from Salt Lake City, where new league commissioner Dean Howes is based. Howes is a former partner and vice-chairman of SCP Worldwide, a private equity firm that specialized in consulting and investment in “undervalued franchises, venues, and media properties.” SCP were the original owners of Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake, and majority owners of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues from 2006-2011. In 2016 Howes was appointed Senior Strategic Advisor to the Rugby Utah executive leadership team.

While no official timetable has been given for its inaugural kickoff, it is understood that the league is targeting a spring opening to the season. More information on salaries, league structure, broadcasting, etc. will be confirmed ‘in the coming months.’ The press release in its entirety can be read below:

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Salt Lake City UT: Beginning in 2018, Major League Rugby (MLR) will launch as a new professional rugby competition in North America. MLR will be the premier rugby competition in the United States. By drawing on the best domestic talent MLR will create an intense, fast paced competition and a top-tier media product. MLR will introduce rugby to the American sports mainstream, provide a focal point for millions of existing fans and bring even more new supporters to the game.

MLR will launch with members in: Glendale, CO; Kansas City, MO; Dallas, TX; Houston, TX; Austin, TX; New Orleans, LA; Seattle, WA; Minneapolis, MN; and Salt Lake City, UT. MLR will announce a final team and venue list, player contract information, and 2018 schedule, in the coming months. Beyond 2018, MLR will expand to more cities with an emphasis on finding the right partners, markets and venues.

Developing the game of rugby is at the core of the MLR model. MLR will create local destinations where rugby fans and families can come together to celebrate the highest levels of the American game. MLR stadia will be gathering places for rugby fans and local communities to gather around the game. By connecting the national to the local, MLR will invite America to join the unique, vibrant rugby family and discover its core values: integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect.

MLR will reinvigorate the American rugby development pathway. By creating outreach programs to bring new players to the game and high-performance pathways to keep the best athletes in the sport, MLR will create the competitive environment to push the American game to the next level.

Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States and one of the most popular sports in the world, as evidenced by the strong reception it received at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Rugby’s rising domestic growth and wide-reaching global fan base combine to create a unique environment for a professional league to succeed in the American market. While hundreds of local clubs have helped the sport to take hold in the U.S. during the past decade, Major League Rugby is poised to unite these fans under a common banner as rugby enters the American sports mainstream.

About MLR: MLR is an initiative driven by existing USA Rugby-member teams, in partnership with private investors, who believe that American rugby can thrive at the highest levels: as a commercial enterprise; as an influential player on the international scene; and as a participation sport at the youth and senior level.

About Americas Rugby News

Formally created in June 2015, this website's goal is to increase media exposure of the Tier 2 rugby nations, and create a hub with a focus on the stories of rugby in the Americas - North, Central and South.

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  • Adam Rogge

    It is sad that there is not a single CA team listed, but three TX teams instead. That is one of the instances where PRO went wrong as well. It will be tough for the CA fanbase, which is quite large, to get behind any of these teams. I will cheer for the league to succeed and expand but am sad to see nothing west of SLC outside of Seattle, which is farther away than SLC for a majority of the state.

    • Cr4yol4

      California teams were approached. They either said no thanks or we are not ready yet. There is talk that SFGG said no because of revenue sharing. SFGG relies on gate receipts to fund their other programs; MLR is requiring upwrds of 20% of gate receipts for revenue sharing I believe.

      • Adam Rogge

        Thank you for that insight. I am sure it was difficult after the PRO debacle to jump back into another league for any CA team. High hopes MLR succeeds where PRO did not.

      • nico christo

        Some of the 9 teams have “sponsors” or investors…

        • Cr4yol4

          Most if not all of them do. And your point is? SFGG might have been able to attract investors or sponsors, but they didn’t want to give up some of what they have.

          • nico christo

            sometimes it’s better to get 40% of something than 100% of nothing

      • Aaron

        SFGG is an amateur club, I’m not paying money to watch dudes at a park.

    • Aaron

      The CA Rugby community and population has the ability to support three professional clubs, although SFGG immediately went into the Super League when it was created I do not think they have the finances or willing investors backing them and didn’t want to share revenue.

      I keep plugging away and saying Olympic Club as they not only have a deep history, but the bigger Club has significant financial backing to support a Professional side and build out a stadium.

      It would be smart for also Los Angeles/OC to get a side and a team in SD. But we will see where this goes.

  • nico christo

    and again, Canadians are not on.

    • Bryan Ray

      Patience good sir.

      “There are logistics to work out both internally and league-wise and 2018 may come too soon, but it will be a surprise if there is not at least one – and likely two – Canadian sides playing in a professional cross-border competition come 2019.”

      More here:

      http://www.americasrugbynews.com/2017/04/27/notes-from-the-north-5/

      • nico christo

        thanks
        but as always late and behind..

  • nick s,

    Shame sfgg said no. Hopefully someone else from the Bay Area will step up and feed the fans in that market. Also wish there was a Oregon team! Guess I’ll have to support Seattle …. for now.

  • Mike

    Great news. Hopefully, the competition gets off to a good start and can grow from there. Teams from the western USA, eastern USA and Canada would be great additions in 2019, and beyond.

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