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March of 1997, witnessed the beginning of rugby matches of the new hope for improving the caliber of play in America, the Super League. Rugby Magazine categorized the goals of the league as the…significant effort of on the part of top clubs searching for a higher challenger in the US game.” The “US game” then, and until this April, was void of any professional squads.
The league initially found a sponsor in Harp beer that funded a television show, which provided more exposure to rugby in America.
The original teams included Belmont Shore RFC, Chicago Lions, Dallas Harlequins, Denver Barbarians, Gentlemen of Aspen, Kansas City Blues, Life, Old Blue (NYC), Old Puget Sound Beach RFC, Old Mission Beach Athletic Club RFC, Potomac Athletic Club RFC, Old Blues Rugby Club (CA), Golden Gate Rugby Club and Washington RFC. In 1998, two more elite sides joined the league, Boston RFC and the Philadelphia Whitemarsh RFC.
The opening game between Dallas against Chicago went down to the wire with the Quins eking out a victory against the Lions 29-15.
The Super League struggled in its years of existence as many original clubs dropped out, mainly because of financial reasons. The trips were mostly self–funded and this put a heavy burden on the clubs and players, especially, to fly long distances for mid-week games.
In retrospect, the League did improve elite club play, offering a higher skill platform for players. And the League also funneled many of its stars into the Eagles.
But, in the end, it could not overcome inordinate travel costs coupled with low income from few sponsors.