As I’m sure as to when you read the headline, you probably were asking as to what I meant. There will be a lot to digest here so bear with me, but I talk about what my hopes are for the future of the sport in this country. It’s only growing and there is a long time before some of what I suggest could be fulfilled, but hopefully in 20 years from now, this is what could happen for rugby in America. Let’s take a look at what I want to happen for American rugby.
Implementation of Promotion/Relegation
I probably need to pump the brakes on this one as it’s “too soon” to talk about. Yes that would be correct, but with considering how successful Major League Rugby was in it’s inaugural season, I have high hopes that it will succeed and become a staple in American sports. I have already discussed in one of my articles about expansion in MLR, but in my article I talk about having 16 teams in the league. More than that in my opinion would be too much. There was talks about reviving PRO Rugby, an American rugby league that failed after one season, but I think PRO Rugby should consider coming back as a league just under MLR, a second division is probably the best way of putting it. PRO Rugby could also do the same thing with having 16 teams, but with having either two or three of the best teams that season promoted to play in MLR with two or three of the worst sides in MLR relegated to playing in PRO Rugby. It honestly could be beneficial for both sides.
Pursuing the best players in the world to come play here
This might be a bit controversial as you want to have American rugby players on display, but if you want to make more money, get more interest from fans outside of the U.S. and even expose people from within your own country to your product, you need to have some big names in your league. So imagine a player like Beauden Barrett or David Pocock playing in Major League Rugby. Heck, even go after a talented youngster from New Zealand or Ireland to be a part of your club. Make your product the best you can possibly make it.
Fully fledged rugby facilities
My hope is to see rugby-only facilities being built for this league in the near future. The ownership of a possible MLR club in Washington D.C. have already discussed plans of building one, Houston is about to break ground on their future stadium, and Glendale already has one. I can’t wait to see what the facilities will look like across the country.
Longer MLR season
While it was a great inaugural season for MLR, it needs to be longer. I have proposed that each team should play at least 22 matches before, but even 15 is fine. It’s just too short. Also, the more matches played, the more money your club will make. It’s simple economics. I would be fine with the season beginning in April, but when it would end is a good question. Heck, even having it played from August till December is fine.
Better media coverage
Obviously getting as much radio exposure is key, but that will only happen when radio stations actually decide to cover them. Television will be vital though. Having CBS Sports Network is key, but ESPN made it difficult to watch as they put their coverage through ESPN+. They need to change that to regular coverage as it could be put on ESPN 2 and ESPN on occasion. NBC Sports Network should pick up some coverage of MLR as they already have Aviva Premiership matches as well as the Six Nations tournament. Heck, even include Fox Sports as that could boost their profile. The league simply needs more coverage.
Seriously recruit players
There are 325 million people in the United States, how the country is not competitive is beyond my comprehension. Yes, I do realize the best athletes play basketball, football, hockey, baseball, and ever so increasingly more of soccer, but there’s 325 million Americans, there has to be some great athletes who can play rugby. Pursue the players who couldn’t quite make it to play college sports and instill them in your academies or even the college players, let’s say football players, that couldn’t quite cut it for a professional gig. Heck, even scout players while they are in middle and high school. The earlier the better. So my hope is that there is some serious recruiting in the future.
The “Big Six”
For the longest time when talking about American sports was saying the “Big Four” (Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey) and with the sudden rise of soccer in the country, it is safe to say that it is now the “Big Five.” However, my hope is that rugby becomes so popular that people say the “Big Six.”
College Rugby is taken serious
Right now, for the most part, college rugby is seen as just a club sport at schools. While yes it is good exposure for the sport as it is covered by some television, it’s still a club and no funding to say. If schools made rugby into a varsity sport, more funding could help build the profile of the sport across the country and it would allow players to become better which then make the sport better.
USA Rugby becomes competitive at the international level
This is the ultimate goal. I want to see my home country become a force in international rugby as they are looked at as serious contenders for the Rugby World Cup. I want people in New Zealand to be scared to play the United States. I want people talking about some players from the United States as one of the best players in the world. I want a World Cup championship. And that could happen especially with the amount of people in the country.