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To say it’s been a disappointing few months for fans of the U.S. National Rugby League team would be an understatement. First the team faltered in 2021 World Cup qualifying to Jamaica setting up a tough final qualification, but now outlets around the world are reporting that the rights to the 2025 Rugby League World Cup have been stripped from the United States and Canada.
The tournament was awarded to the U.S. and Canada just a little over two years ago mainly on the promises of promoter Jason Moore. It was Moore’s group that was going to put on the tournament and recently organized the match between England and New Zealand in Denver. Despite the okay crowd it was that match that would doom the big prize of the World Cup. Reportedly, Moore left both England and New Zealand hanging on payments which was enough to convince the RLIF that they should reopen bidding for the 2025 tournament.
It’s still possible that the World Cup could be in the U.S. and Canada—possibly in 2025—but it would take someone credible coming along to make it happen. Given the costs involved and the fact that rugby league is a niche of a niche sport in the United States that doesn’t seem likely to happen.
As for the 2021 edition the U.S. is going to have their work cut out for them to qualify. They have qualified for the last several editions even making the quarterfinals in 2013. The Hawks had no trouble beating Chile in their opening round match but then fell to Jamaica 16-10 in the Americas qualifying final. The loss means that the U.S. will play the Cook Islands who have the potential to be very good. However, they last made the World Cup in 2013 and only one before then.
If the Hawks are able to get past the Cook Islands and qualify for the tournament it will at least keep some momentum behind the team for the next few years. If not, rugby league could continue to be a summer time alternative for rugby union players.