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It’s time to review the past and potential future of professional rugby initiatives in the USA.
Almost a year ago, July 31, 2016 marked the last match in PRO Rugby’s five-team league, the nation’s first attempt to professionalize the sport. During that inaugural season, these five clubs played 12 matches from April to the end of July.
Attendance totals indicated that PRO Rugby generated an average of 1,723 per game, which, per newspaper reports, represented only 57-percent of a stated breakeven number of 3,000 per contest. Since that last match in 2016, PRO Rugby dropped the San Francisco Rush, winnowing down the league to four clubs (Sacramento, San Diego, Colorado, and Ohio).
So far in 2017, no second season has occurred. In addition, PRO Rugby has not announced any tentative plans to mount matches in the remaining months of this year. Nor has it indicated that it might return in 2018 when its three-year sanctioning terminates with USA Rugby.
MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY
The absence of a homegrown USA professional league in 2017 has not prevented others from planning new ventures for the future. On tap for 2018 is a nine-team entity called Major League Rugby. The teams:
1924 Rugby – Glendale, Colo.
Blues Rugby Management – Kansas City, Mo.
DFW Major Rugby – Dallas
Houston Strikers – Houston
Huns Rugby Management – Austin
NOLA Rugby Enterprises – New Orleans
Seattle Rugby LLC – Seattle
Tornadoes Rugby LLC – Minneapolis
Rugby Utah Ventures – Salt Lake City
Finally, Super 7s is the only sevens entry in the professional mix, and a new way sevens will be played. Super 7’s Rugby will launch with a barnstorming six-city tour across the United States next July 2018. Six professional men's, and six professional women’s teams will be created. It’s a new idea from United World Sports (USA Sevens, Penn Mutual College Rugby Championship, Rugby Today) that will feature four-quarters of sevens’ play to constitute a full game.