Last week, the U.S men’s rugby team secured their highest ever Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament finish with a comprehensive 7-33 thrashing by Argentina in the 5th/6th place play-off final. Although the nature of finishing sixth was a result to forget, the fact that the USA Men’s Eagles Sevens finished sixth shows what a difference five years has made from the team that won only one game in the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament.
Rugby Union is the fastest growing national sport in the United States. There were over 125,000 players registered with USA Rugby as of 2016, having won its first Sevens series in 2014/15. The 2016 Summer Olympics provided a massive boost to the popularity of the rugby union on the United States. Having been first introduced in the mid nineteenth century rugby union gained popularity throughout the late nineteenth century. However, it started to decline from the early 1900s and wasn’t until the 1960/70s before rugby re-emerged on a national scale. By 1975 the United States of America Rugby Football Union (now known as USA Rugby) was formed. Since 1987, the men’s team has competed, albeit barely in most, in all but one of the Rugby World Cup tournaments. Their place in the international stage seems to be cemented with the U.S emerging as favorites to hist the 2027 Rugby World Cup.
The successful Sevens tournament held in San Francisco, which saw 100,000 fans squeeze into the AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team, with a capacity of 41,915, looks to have sealed a big bid from the U.S for the 2027 World Cup. A decision will be made in two years’ time, but the signs are that the World Rugby association are just as determined to see the U.S host the tournament. World Rugby are determined to break into the lucrative North American market, having hosted international test matches to Chicago and Washington previously.
Popularity of Rugby in the U.S. has definitely been boosted by the internet and the availability of online streaming. Nowadays, it’s a simple process to watch rugby online, with good quality streams available for just about all the big games all of the time. Peer-to-Peer viewing is becomingly increasingly popular, much to the bane of broadcasting companies. The advent of blockchain technology will make viewing rugby through peer-to-peer an even easier task, bringing live international to anyone that wants to see it.
No doubt, rugby has a long way to go before it replaces any of the big three in Football, Basketball and Baseball. However, Rugby is a sport free of any political controversy. No anthem refusals or angry tweets from President Donald Trump in the world of U.S rugby. Last year also saw the first season of Major League Rugby. Deemed a success, the league is set to expand from its current seven teams to 10 teams by 2020. All-in-all, everything is indicating continued growth for rugby in the U.S. Participation is growing, the audience is growing and at long last, there is starting to be a team to match its nations enthusiasm.