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Major League Rugby confirmed its expansion plans for the 2020 season Thursday, amid its sophomore season. The New England Free Jacks, Old Glory DC and Rugby ATL round out the 12-team league, which will be split between eastern and western conferences for the third rendition.
The Mississippi River is the dividing line, with New Orleans, Atlanta, D.C., New England, New York and Toronto making up the East, and Houston, Austin, Glendale, Utah, San Diego and Seattle constituting the West. The top three from each conference will make the playoffs, with the top seeds receiving byes to the conference finals. The second- and third-seeds will play in the opening round.
“Professional rugby is here to stay in North America,” said Major League Rugby Commissioner Dean Howes. “MLR is the first time the North American sports model has been applied to the global game of rugby. That model is now laying the foundations for the long-term success of this league and the sport. For everyone involved in MLR, from our team operators to our players, fans and media partners, our ultimate goal is to see North American rugby thrive. Rugby means business here, and MLR is right at the forefront.”
With unavailability for the Americas Rugby Championship and winter weather marring the opening half of the second season, the league has decided to start later in 2020, starting Feb. 15. The three-week playoffs run June 13-28. The regular season load of 16 games will remain the same, with conference rivals playing home-and-away and crossing over once each for interleague play.
Dallas has reportedly secured the league's 13th team, though Thursday's press release didn't address the report. League officials have said they plan to exand to 14 and no further, leaving room for one more city to jump in for 2021.
The league has expanded each season, starting with seven in 2018. Rugby United New York and the Toronto Arrows were added for this season. Dallas is set to follow D.C., Atlanta and New England.