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Historically, when talking about rugby in America, there have evolved three distinct groupings that all begin with the letter "P."
- Pollyannas - Ever optimistic about the current state and future development of the sport;
- Pessimists - Envision the worst outcome of any meaure or event related to USA rugby; and,
- Pragmatists - Concerned only with practical application stemming from facts.
When it comes to the launch of the seven-team, professional Major League Rugby (MLR) this Saturday, April 21, in which of the three "P" groupings are you?
To review: Seven well-funded teams in seven cities have formed a new, North American professional rugby organization and will commence play this weekend. MLR secured television coverage via "The Game of the Week" from CBSSN, and 17-scheduled regional airings from Cox/AT&T Sports.
The teams are:
- Austin (TX) Elite
- NOLA Gold (New Orleans)
- Utah Warriors
- Glendale Raptors
- San Diego Legion
- Houston Saber Cats
- Seattle Seawolves
In pre-season play, the teams displayed colorful new uniforms, creative nicknames/logos, and indicated seating/ticket pricing on the https://www.usmlr.com web site. The League is good to go.
MLR represents the third attempt to professionalize rugby fifteens in the USA. The most recent, PRO Rugby, mounted a five-city league (San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Denver, Dayton, Ohio), and lasted one year.
Remember, MLR is one league but comprised of seven teams that will differ in attendance and local television viewership.
Pragmatic questions to be answered:
- Will some or all franchises approach breakeven in the first season?
- Will share/stake holders continue to cover losses if the first season in unprofitable?
- Is this American rugby league an idea whose time has come?
MLR will generate initial interest among local fans. To succeed in the short-term, it must reach sustainability, attracting both rugby fans on a frequent basis, but potentially, new people interested in the sport. End-of-season P&L metrics will determine individual team and league success or failure.
Meanwhile, waiting in the wings to join MLR for 2019 are teams from Vancouver and New York City with possible entries coming from Boston and Washington, DC.
Major League Rugby kicks off April 21 at 3 p.m. ET when Houston hosts NOLA. The Game of the Week (also on April 21) features the Austin Huns away at the Glendale Raptors at 5 p.m. ET on CBSSN.
Everyone in the USA rugby community wishes MLR good fortune.