USA Rugby League

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USA Rugby League
Current season or competition:
2014 USARL season
USA Rugby League logo
Sport Rugby league football
Instituted 2011
Inaugural season 2011
Number of teams 14
Champions Philadelphia Fight (3rd Title)
Most titles Philadelphia Fight (3 Titles)

The USA Rugby League (USARL) is a semi-professional rugby league football competition based in the United States. The league was founded in 2011 by clubs that had broken with the established American National Rugby League (AMNRL), plus expansion franchises. The USARL began its inaugural season in 2011. In November 2014, the USARL were granted Affiliate membership of the RLIF and RLEF and are now the official governing body for the sport in the USA.[1]


The formation of the USA Rugby League was announced on January 12, 2011. Seven teams that had previously competed in the American National Rugby League (AMNRL), the United States' established rugby league organization and recognized governing body for the sport, announced they were breaking with the AMNRL to form a new league. The stated reason for the split was dissatisfaction with the governance of the AMNRL; the departing teams were unhappy with the lack of club involvement in the league's decision making. The new league includes its member clubs in its administration.[2][3][4]

The departing AMNRL teams were the Boston Thirteens, the Washington, D.C. Slayers, the Fairfax Eagles, the Jacksonville Axemen, the New Haven Warriors, the Philadelphia Fight, and the Pittsburgh Vipers; they were to be joined by two new teams, the New Jersey Turnpike Titans and Kodiak Rugby from New York City. Before the season Pittsburgh and Fairfax became "developmental" teams in the new league outside of the top-tiered competition; Fairfax subsequently suspended operations.[5] The New York team was unable to find a suitable stadium in the city, and instead became the Rhode Island Rebellion.[6] One additional team, Oneida FC, joined the top-tiered competition for the 2011 season.[7]

On January 13, 2011, the USARL announced that Peter Illfield, chairman of the Philadelphia Fight, would be the league's first Chairman.[8][9] The league's first event was a rugby league nines tournament in the Philadelphia area on May 28–29, 2011. Round 1 of the regular season championship kicked off on June 4; the Jacksonville Axemen won the minor premiership with the best regular season record. In the inaugural Grand Final on August 27, the Philadelphia Fight defeated the New Haven Warriors to win their first ever national championship.[10]

In 2013 the USARL and AMNRL increased their focus on reunification, particularly after the United States' encouraging showing at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. An independent commission assembled to lead negotiations, however the USARL clubs eventually pulled out. USARL commissioner Peter Illfield blamed apparent dysfunction and disorganization in the AMNRL organization for this decision. The USARL subsequently invited AMNRL clubs to join their ranks as full members and initiated a four-team expansion.[11]

The competition will be split into two conferences to accommodate expansion and reduce the operating costs of all clubs.[12] In addition, the Northern Virginia Eagles withdrew from the AMNRL and will join the USARL Northern Conference in 2014.[13]

Season structure[edit]

Beginning in their inaugural 2011 year, the USARL season consists of an eight-game regular season, followed by a playoffs series culminating in a Grand Final for the National Championship. The first event of the season was a pre-season rugby league nines tournament. The regular season runs through June and July, with each team playing every other team, and one team twice, in four home and four away games. Teams qualify for the playoffs based on point differential, with a win counting for 2 points, a draw for 1, a loss for 0, and a forfeit for −2. The playoffs consist of a two-round single-elimination tournament in August. The season's top four teams will compete in a semi-final round, with the two winners going on to the Grand Final.[14]


Eight teams played in the USARL's "Top Tier" competition in 2011. These teams include five former AMNRL teams, the Boston Thirteens, the Jacksonville Axemen, the New Haven Warriors, the Philadelphia Fight, and the Washington DC Slayers, plus three new teams, the New Jersey Turnpike Titans, the Rhode Island Rebellion, and Oneida FC. These teams have committed to the league's standards of operations, including travel, venue, and scheduling obligations.[7] On December 12, 2011 the USARL announced another team, the Baltimore Blues, would join the league for the 2012 season to take over Titans's spot in the USARL.[15]

The New Haven Warriors and Oneida FC withdrew after the 2012 season, and the 2013 season ran as a six-team competition.[16] The competition was split into two conferences for the 2014 season, to accommodate four expansion clubs and reduce operational costs. In 2015, the league added three clubs from the defunct AMNRL, the Bucks County Sharks, the Connecticut Wildcats, and the New York Knights, as well as a new team, the Delaware Black Foxes. The USARL also announced the Baltimore Blues would not return. To accommodate the new teams, the league split the North Division into "A" and "B" groups in the North-east and Mid-Atlantic.[17]

Current teams[edit]

Division Colors Club Established City Stadium Capacity* Titles (Last)
North East Division
RI Rebellion colors.png
Rhode Island Rebellion 2011 Providence, Rhode Island Classical High School 4,000 0 (N/A)
Ipswich Colours.svg
Boston Thirteens 2009 Boston, Massachusetts MIT Steinbrenner Stadium 13,000 0 (N/A)
Newcastle colours.svg
New York Knights 1997 New York City, New York Pier 40, Hudson River Park 5,000 0 (N/A)
North Queensland colours.svg
Brooklyn Kings 2014 Brooklyn, New York Midwood Athletic Complex 10,000 0 (N/A)
Wests Tigers colours.svg
Connecticut Wildcats 2003 Greenwich, Connecticut Andrews Field 5,000 0 (N/A)
North Atlantic Division
Bucks County Sharks 1997 Levittown, Pennsylvania Falls Township Community Park 2,500 0 (N/A)
Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg
Northern Virginia Eagles 2007 Manassas, Virginia Grizzly Sports Complex 13,000 0 (N/A)
Central Comets colours.svg
Delaware Black Foxes 2015 Wilmington, Delaware N/A N/A 0 (N/A)
South Sydney colours.svg
Philadelphia Fight 1998 Conshohocken, Pennsylvania A.A. Garthwaite Stadium 10,000 3 (2014)
St. George colours.svg
Washington DC Slayers 2003 Washington, Washington D.C Duke Ellington Field 5,000 0 (N/A)
Southern Division
Atlanta Rhinos 2014 Atlanta, Georgia Atlanta Silverbacks Park 5,000 0 (N/A)
Wests Panthers Colours.svg
Central Florida Warriors 2014 DeLand, Florida Spec Martin Stadium 6,000 0 (N/A)
Jacksonville colors.svg
Jacksonville Axemen 2006 Jacksonville, Florida Hodges Stadium 10,000 1 (2012)
Central Comets colours.svg
Tampa Mayhem 2014 Tampa Bay, Florida Larry Sanders Stadium 5,000 0 (N/A)

Former teams[edit]

Former USARL teams
Colors Club City State Stadium Foundation Final
Wests Tigers colours.svg
New Jersey Turnpike Titans Jersey City  New Jersey Lincoln Park 2011 2011
New Haven colours.svg
New Haven Warriors New Haven  Connecticut Ken Strong Stadium 2006 2012
Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg
Oneida FC Cambridge  Massachusetts MIT Steinbrenner Stadium 2011 2012
Cronulla colours.svg
Baltimore Blues Baltimore  Maryland 2012 2014

USARL play-off series[edit]

To accommodate the new conference and division structure, the USARL created a new playoff structure for 2014. In the South Conference, all four teams automatically qualified for the South Conference Playoffs. The teams with the best and worst records played each other, as did the teams with the second- and third-best records. The winners played in the South Conference Championship. In the North Conference, the teams with the first- and second-best record in each division played each other in the North Conference Playoffs. The winners played in the North Conference Championship. The winners of the Conference Championships met in the Championship Final.

List of championship titles[edit]

Season Championship Final Information Regular Season Premiers
Champions Score Runners-Up
2011 Philadelphia colours.svg Philadelphia Fight
28 – 26
New Zealand colours.svg New Haven Warriors Jacksonville colors.svg Jacksonville Axemen
2012 Jacksonville colors.svg Jacksonville Axemen
28 – 22
Ipswich Colours.svg Boston 13s Jacksonville colors.svg Jacksonville Axemen
2013 Philadelphia colours.svg Philadelphia Fight
28 – 22
Jacksonville colors.svg Jacksonville Axemen Philadelphia colours.svg Philadelphia Fight
2014 Philadelphia colours.svg Philadelphia Fight
30 – 18
Jacksonville colors.svg Jacksonville Axemen N/A


Club Wins Winning years
South Sydney colours.svg Philadelphia Fight
3 2011, 2013, 2014
Jacksonville colors.svg Jacksonville Axemen
1 2012

Developmental teams[edit]

As part of the 2011 season, a former AMNRL team, the Pittsburgh Sledgehammers, participated as a "developmental team", playing a more limited schedule while developing the club for future seasons.[7] Several other clubs have registered "developing" teams: these include the Denver Wolverines, the Los Angeles Raiders, the Orange County Outlaws, the Seattle Force and Texas Rugby League (which will field two teams, the Dallas Dragons and the Houston Hornets). Several of these are established developing teams that were previously aligned with the AMNRL; the USARL has committed to support them in their development.[18] Another team, the Utah Avalanche, were formerly affiliated as a developmental team, and participated in the 2011 USARL 9s tournament.[19]

In 2011 the Jacksonville Axemen also launched a reserve grade competition, the "Firehouse Subs" Southeastern Rugby League Championship, which acts as a feeder club system for the Axemen to further develop players. The competing teams are the Daytona Gearheads, the Jacksonville Hatchets, and the Orlando Adrenaline.[20] A fourth team, the Tampa Inferno, joined the championship in 2013.[21] From 2014, Daytona and Orlando will form a joint venture Central Florida side and compete in the USARL Southern Conference.

USARL Developing Teams
Colors Club City State Foundation
Dallas Dragons Dallas  Texas 2011
Western Reds colours.svg
Daytona Gearheads Daytona Beach  Florida 2011
Western Suburbs colours.svg
Denver Wolverines Denver  Colorado 2010
Rochdale colours.svg
Houston Hornets Houston  Texas 2014
St. George colours.svg
Jacksonville Hatchets Jacksonville  Florida 2011
Canberra colours.svg
Los Angeles Raiders Los Angeles  California 2011
University colours.svg
Orange County Outlaws Orange County  California 2011
Cronulla colours.svg
Orlando Adrenaline Orlando  Florida 2011
Pittsburgh Sledgehammers Pittsburgh  Pennsylvania 2009
Ireland colours.svg
Seattle Force Seattle  Washington 2010

Regional Representative sides[edit]

The following is a list of USARL select side teams which represent specific geographical locations of origin. Players are selected from the USARL teams from within those regions.

USARL Regional teams
Colors Club Region Established First Match
Rochdale colours.svg
New England Immortals New England 2010 Canada Canada July 31, 2010

Development programs[edit]

The USARL has supported the establishment of the American Youth Rugby League Association (AYRLA), a clinic and game program for juniors run through high schools in Rhode Island and as of 2012 Philadelphia.[22]

Mikhael Shammas of the Boston 13s has also endeavoured to establish a North American Match Officials Association to improve officiating quality of the game within North America.

The 2013 season has seen substantial growth of the game with the establishment of a New England 9s tournament and an under 23's competition, as well as regular school competitions in Rhode Island and Boston under the ARLYA banner.[23]

In 2014, the league established a touring developmental side, the USA Pioneers, to play friendly matches against foreign nations. They will complete a two match tour in Jamaica in April 2014.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "USARL become members of the rugby league European federation". November 6, 2014. 
  2. ^ Mascord, Steve (January 12, 2011). "Discord 2011: Edition 2". Archived from the original on January 19, 2011. Retrieved January 13, 2011. 
  3. ^ "New Rugby League Competition Announced". Rugby Magazine. January 12, 2011. Archived from the original on January 19, 2011. Retrieved January 13, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Breakaway league launched in the US". January 12, 2011. Archived from the original on January 19, 2011. Retrieved January 13, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Eagles Cease Operations". April 12, 2011. Retrieved December 13, 2011. 
  6. ^ Mark Reynolds (July 23, 2011). "Providence-based rugby team battles for recognition". The Providence Journal. Retrieved December 13, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c "USARL Constitution, Teams, Entry Qualifications Announced". Philadelphia Fight Rugby News and Press. February 18, 2011. Retrieved February 21, 2011. 
  8. ^ "USA Rugby League (USARL) Names Peter Illfield Chairman". USA Rugby League. January 13, 2011. Retrieved February 4, 2011. 
  9. ^ "USA Rugby League name a Chairman-the Fight's own Peter Illfield". Philadelphia Fight Rugby News and Press. January 13, 2011. Archived from the original on January 19, 2011. Retrieved January 13, 2011. 
  10. ^ Daniel Andruczyk (August 28, 2011). "It's Hard to Keep a Game of Rugby League Down". Retrieved August 30, 2011. 
  11. ^ Mascord, Steve (March 12, 2014). "American Civil War Wages On". Forty20 Magazine. Retrieved March 18, 2014. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "2014 Season IV schedule is here". USA Rugby League. March 16, 2014. Retrieved March 18, 2014. 
  14. ^ "USARL Constitution, Teams, Entry Qualifications Announced" (PDF). USA Rugby League. February 17, 2011. Retrieved March 9, 2011. 
  15. ^ "USARL welcomes the Blues". USA Rugby League. December 12, 2011. Retrieved December 12, 2011. 
  16. ^ "USARL confirms new schedule for 2013 season". USA Rugby League. May 8, 2013. Retrieved January 30, 2014. 
  17. ^ "USA Rugby League Season V announced with 14 teams". USA Rugby League. January 23, 2015. Retrieved February 2, 2015. 
  18. ^ "USA Developing Regions". USA Rugby League. 2011. Retrieved March 29, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Draw for this Weekends 9′s Announced". USA Rugby League. May 23, 2011. Retrieved June 10, 2011. 
  20. ^ "Three New Teams Coming to Florida". Jacksonville Axemen. May 27, 2011. Retrieved June 14, 2011. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ Youth program expands to Philadelphia
  23. ^
  24. ^

External links[edit]