Major League Rugby
2019 Major League Rugby season
|Commissioner||Dean Howes |
|Number of teams||9 (12 in 2020)|
|Champions||Seattle Seawolves (2018)|
|Broadcast partner||CBS Sports Network, ESPN,|
AT&T Sports Networks
Major League Rugby (MLR) is a professional rugby union competition and the top-level championship for clubs in North America. In the 2019 season it is contested by nine teams: eight from the United States and one from Canada.
MLR began its first season in 2018 as an initiative of the American rugby community in partnership with private investors. The Toronto Arrows joined the league ahead of 2019 season as the first Canadian team in MLR. Three further American clubs are set to begin play in 2020.
In late April 2019 New York announced the signing of French international Mathieu Bastareaud which is seen as a major coup for the league, since Bastereaud is a current French international and world class player, making him by far the most prolific player in the league.
Major League Rugby spans six months from late January through to mid June. The regular season is a double round-robin with all clubs playing each other home and away. Each team plays sixteen games, half of them at home. This is followed by a postseason for the top four teams consisting of two semi-final matches and the Championship Game to determine the season's MLR champion team.
For the 2020 season, MLR will change to a conference format. Both conferences, the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference, will consist of six teams: Seattle, San Diego, Utah, Glendale, Austin and Houston in the west and existing teams New Orleans, New York, and Toronto to be joined by 2020 newcomers Atlanta, Washington D.C., and New England in the east. Each team will play a double round-robin within their conference in addition to playing six games against teams from the other conference, for a total of 16 regular season games. The postseason will consist of the top three teams from each conference: a wildcard game between the second and third ranked teams, followed by a playoff game between the wildcard winner and the first ranked team in the conference. The resulting playoff winners from each conference will then face off in the league championship. The season is scheduled to start on February 15, 2020.
The league is structured as a closed-system, and, similar to other American sports leagues, does not have promotion and relegation. It operates as a single entity similar to Major League Soccer, with each team or "franchise" owned by the league and the franchise operators owning a share of the league.
There are nine teams confirmed for the 2019 Major League Rugby season:
|Austin Elite||Austin, Texas||Dell Diamond [a]||11,631||2018||Alain Hyardet|
|Glendale Raptors||Denver, Colorado||Infinity Park [b]||5,000||2018||David Williams|
|Houston SaberCats||Houston, Texas||Aveva Stadium||4,000||2018||Paul Emerick (interim)|
|New Orleans Gold||New Orleans, Louisiana||Eagle Athletic Facility [c]||3,000||2018||Nate Osborne|
|Rugby United New York||New York, New York||MCU Park||7,000||2019||Mike Tolkin|
|San Diego Legion||San Diego, California||Torero Stadium||6,000||2018||Rob Hoadley|
|Seattle Seawolves||Seattle, Washington||Starfire Stadium [d]||4,500||2018||Richie Walker|
|Toronto Arrows||Toronto, Ontario||Alumni Field
|Utah Warriors||Salt Lake City, Utah||Zions Bank Stadium [e]||5,000||2018||Alf Daniels|
The following teams have been officially announced as joining the league in 2020 or 2021. The expansion franchise fee is $4 million USD as of 2019. When the three teams join Major League Rugby in 2020, the league will expand its regular season to 96 matches be divided into two conferences.
|New England Free Jacks||Boston, Massachusetts||Union Point Sports Complex [f]||2000||2020||Josh Smith|
|Old Glory DC||Washington, D.C.||Cardinal Stadium [g]||3,500||2020||Andrew Douglas|
|Rugby ATL||Atlanta, Georgia [h]||—||—||2020||Scott Lawerence|
|Dallas MLR Team||Dallas, Texas||—||—||2021||—|
|2018||7||Seattle Seawolves||23–19||Glendale Raptors||San Diego Legion||Utah Warriors|
Major League Rugby players are generally drawn from North American clubs, although teams are allowed to sign up to ten overseas players.
- MVP of the Championship Match
|2018||Vili Toluta'u||Seattle Seawolves|
Major League Rugby programming runs in prime weekend time slots on Saturday afternoons and Sunday evenings.
The CBS Sports Network televises 13 matches nationally over the course of the season. This includes a Game of the Week during each of the 10 rounds of the MLR regular season along with all three post-season matches. Live streaming is also available through the CBS Sports Network streaming platforms. The remaining games are available on ESPN properties and regional sports networks.
AT&T Sports Networks have a 17-game package covering six of the seven MLR teams for games not broadcast on the CBS Sports Network. Home and away matches for Austin, Houston and New Orleans are carried on AT&T SportsNet Southwest. Seattle's matches are carried on Root Sports Northwest and all Glendale and Utah games are hosted on AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain.
San Diego has a separate local rights agreement for their market with all the Legion's home and away MLR games that are not on the CBS Sports Network being televised locally on Channel 4 YurView California. Dan Power, Peter Steinberg, Brian Hightower and Stacy Paetz were the CBS Sports commentators for the 2018 season, culminating with the Championship Game in San Diego. Paetz worked the sidelines and hosted the inaugural MLR Championship trophy and MVP presentations.
Rugby United New York announced regional television partnership with SNY, which will televise nine games of RUNY's inaugural season (2019), with the premiere game airing LIVE Sunday, January 27 at 5:00 PM EST. Also, NBC Sports Washington and NBC Sports Philadelphia+ will join SNY in televising match coverage of eight remaining games, beginning Saturday February 16 at 3 PM EST when RUNY travels to face the NOLA Gold. The partnership with the NBC Sports Regional Networks expands RUNY's TV market into two key East Coast markets.
The league signed a multi-year partnership deal with XBlades in 2017 to supply all jersey/kit apparel for each MLR team and all match officials. The MLR also announced Ram Rugby as the official ball supplier. In May 2018, via Instagram, MLR announced Impact Custom Mouth Guards as the official mouth guard of the league.
|New Orleans Gold||Louisiana Tourism||Undisclosed|
|Rugby United New York||None|
|San Diego Legion||None|
|New England Free Jacks||None||Rhino Rugby|
|Old Glory DC||Cuisine Solutions||Adidas|
- PRO Rugby - a professional rugby competition in the U.S. that played only one season in 2016 before folding
- Dell Diamond is located in Round Rock, Texas, which is a part of the Greater Austin metro area.
- Infinity Park is in Glendale, Colorado, a home rule municipality in the Denver metropolitan area.
- Eagle Athletic Facility is on the campus of Archbishop Shaw High School in Marrero, Louisiana, on the Westbank of the New Orleans metropolitan area.
- Starfire Stadium is in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila, Washington.
- Zions Bank Stadium is in Herriman, Utah, located within the Salt Lake City metropolitan area.
- A Boston franchise, known as the New England Free Jacks, started playing exhibition fixtures in late 2018 and plans to join MLR in 2020.
- DC MLR has exclusive rights for a Washington, D.C. team that would join no later than 2020, and could play exhibition games in 2019.
- An Atlanta franchise, led by President and CEO Bob Taylor, plans to join the league in 2020.
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- "Major League Rugby planned for Washington DC!". dcmlr.com. Archived from the original on 2018-06-03. Retrieved 2018-06-03.
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- "Major League Rugby Announce Telecast Agreement with AT&T Sports Networks". MLR. 2018-02-05. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
- "Major League Rugby and ESPN Announce Rights Agreement". MLR. 2018-03-20. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
- "Media partners". San Diego Legion. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
- "SNY and RUNY Announce Television Partnership". Rugby United New York. 2018-12-20.
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- "Major League Rugby announces XBlades as official apparel partner". Major League Rugby. 2017-12-20. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
- "Major League Rugby Announces Ram Rugby as Official Ball Sponsor". usmlr.com. 2018-02-07. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
- Major League Rugby Announces Impact Mouthguards as Sponsor "Major League Rugby Announces Impact Mouthguards as Sponsor". Major League Rugby. 2018-05-24. Retrieved 2018-07-02.
- US Major League Rugby official website