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For the second-straight year, there will be two open qualifiers for the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship. The granddaddy of them all, the Las Vegas Invitational, will be competed March 1-3 in the shadows of Sam Boyd Stadium, home of the USA Sevens, in Las Vegas.

Returning for its sophomore campaign as a qualifier is the Heart of America Classic, which runs April 14-15 in suburban Kansas City. Last year, 44 teams from 31 different states participated in these two open qualifiers. Add in the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference Championship and the Challenge Cup, both of which return as qualifiers in 2018, and 60 teams from 36 different states partook in CRC qualification last season. More are expected in 2018.

In addition to the automatic qualifiers, the CRC annually has an impressive list of at-large competitors. Last season, champion Cal claimed two tournament titles in the regular season, winning the West Coast 7s at Arroyo Grande, Calif. and the PAC conference championship. Dartmouth won the Ivy League and South Carolina the SCRC conference title, to name a few.

With the CRC entering its ninth season, never have there been more opportunities to qualify. Registration for the LVI and HOA are currently open to every college program in the country.

Over the years, teams who have won automatic qualification have made deep runs in the big dance. In 2011, Central Washington bowed out in the semifinals against eventual champion Dartmouth. In 2012, Life lost in the semifinals to a star-studded Arizona side. In 2015, Arkansas State fell in the quarterfinals to the Wildcats. In 2017, Lindenwood was undone by rival Life in an instant semifinal classic.

This year, those who qualify will have the opportunity to showcase their abilities on the Worldwide Leader in Sports, as ESPN’s family of networks is set to broadcast the CRC on its family of networks for the first time ever.