Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now




Is Rugby on the Verge of Something Big?

Posted on August 31, 2017 by John Harris
One of the 10 most popular sports globally, rugby is gaining in popularity in the United States.

One of the 10 most popular sports globally, rugby is gaining in popularity in the United States.

Rugby is one of the world’s ten most popular sports but, until now, with a few exceptions, it has largely been dominated by countries from the Commonwealth.

That could be all set to change, though, as the US looks ready to embrace “the hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.”

Increasing popularity in the US

Rugby has long been established on this side of the Atlantic, with the men’s national team featuring in all but one of the Rugby World Cups held since the tournament’s establishment in 1987.

With record crowds attending international tournaments and a ten-fold increase in participation among college students over the past ten years, it’s clear that rugby has tapped into a new market in the US. But why is this, and can it break the “Big Four” monopoly over here?

The future of US rugby

American football, baseball and basketball are the traditional US sports that the majority of the country has an interest in, while ice hockey is popular in Canada and the northern states. Soccer, with the help of the 1994 World Cup, Major League Soccer, and the involvement of British stars such as David Beckham and Steven Gerrard, has joined them in recent years, and rugby could also be making a play to break into this top tier.

115,000 players are registered with US rugby – a significant player base to tap into considering the multitude of sports that are played. Compare that to Australia, traditionally one of the best sides in the world. Though the population is obviously much smaller, only 86,000 are registered Down Under. More and more clubs are being set up and, despite the demise of PRO Rugby (the first North American professional rugby league) in 2016, it’s surely only a matter of time until a successful domestic competition is established.

Last year, Soldier Field in Chicago played host to Ireland v New Zealand, a historic game that saw the Boys in Green defeat the All Blacks for the first time in their history. The attendance was over 60,000 – a sure sign that rugby now has a significant audience in the US.

Competitive market

Despite the great strides made by the US in recent years, it still has a long way to go if it wants its teams to be competing at international level. A successful domestic league would be the first step, but it may be hard to attract world-class players, as Major League Soccer has found out. The majority of the world’s best rugby players ply their trade either in the English Premiership, the French Top 14, the Guinness Pro 12 or the Southern Hemisphere’s Super Rugby, all of which are popular options for online betting sites UK.

While the demand for the game is clearly here in the US, there is still a long way to go in terms of infrastructure if “the Eagles” are going to get their hands on the William Webb Ellis Cup anytime soon.


Leave a Reply


  • Current Poll

    Will we see the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals Again?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...
  • Post Categories



↑ Top