The United States have been named as hosts for the Men’s 2031 and Women’s 2033 Rugby World Cups in what is a landslide moment for the international game.
Backed fully by both American politicians and Rugby governors, this will be the first time that the men’s game will host a World Cup in either North or South America.
Lending his assurances, President Joe Biden sent a letter to World Rugby offered governmental assurances that the United States bid would be fully backed with the necessary resources.
“On behalf of the people of the United States, I am pleased to offer my wholehearted support of this bid,” Biden wrote.
Hailed as a watershed moment for the game in the US, World Rugby will be hoping that its finest showpiece could finally untap the potential of the significant American audience.
For its part the US is no stranger to hosting international sporting events. Prior to Rugby’s touchdown in 2031, America will be playing host to the FIFA World Cup in 2026 and the Summer Olympics in 2028.
Whilst hosting the World Cup is a huge step in the right direction for USA Rugby, the continued development of the Major League Rugby competition must remain a priority.
The competition has continued to go from strength-to-strength over the past five years and has really begun to attract global superstars who are looking for a new challenge.
One of these stars has been former England captain Chris Robshaw, who lent his support by the US’s bid to host the tournament.
“We are looking for new audiences for rugby, because the sport has got to a level, in England, in South Africa, in France, in Australia, in New Zealand where you are asking, are you going to attract more fans that don’t already watch it now? Going somewhere relatively new – the MLR has only been going five years – the backing of the World Cup in schools and universities here would be huge.” He said.
Speaking about American’s ability to promote sport on a commercial level, Robshaw believes that the sport has plenty of scope for development but needs to remain realistic.
“The Americans in general view sport differently: they know how to sell stuff; they know how to promote it. I took our little boy to the park the other day, and out of probably 50 people, myself included, we all had hats or merchandise or bumper stickers of the Padres, the San Diego baseball team. Will rugby in this country ever be like an NFL or an NBA – I’m not sure. But it could be like an MLS [Major League Soccer], which gets 15,000 to 20,000 to games and is a fantastic product.”
Lending his weight to Robshaw’s thoughts on the MLR and US Rugby as a whole, MLR commissioner George Killebrew said. “The MLR is a professional league that has 13 teams – 12 in the United States, one in Toronto, Canada. If you look at this nine-year runway to a 2031 World Cup, if we have one or two new teams a year, we will be a 28-team league in all the metropolitan areas in this country.”
Killebrew continued to explain that the game itself is continually growing at such a rate that the US will be ready to be competitive by the time 2031 comes around. “With more kids starting to play the game, the academy programmes and our collegiate properties continuing to grow, by the time World Cup arrives, MLR will have done its job in seeding the United States and getting us ready,” he said.