Rugby’s biggest tournament is finally headed to the United States.
Now comes the hard part for the sport’s leadership: generating enough interest and sustainability to secure rugby’s place in a saturated US market.
The Rugby World Cup will be held in the US for the first time after it was voted on Thursday to host the men’s event in 2031 and the women’s tournament two years later.
It marks rugby’s first attempt to break into the broader American sporting consciousness and unlock what World Rugby, the world governing body, sees as an area of untapped potential, both in a commercial and sporting sense.
“The golden nugget that everyone wants to have” was how World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont described the United States.
“What we will leave in the US,” he said, “is an extremely sustainable and vibrant sport that will go from strength to strength.”
USA Rugby’s vision is for membership nationwide to more than quadruple to 450,000 by 2031, for stadiums “from coast to coast” to host games (there have been about 25 venue deals, including NFL stadiums and Major League Soccer) and significant investment in the country. Major League Rugby, so the US Eagles are a competitive team in time for 2031.
A competitive team, perhaps by the quarterfinals, would be crucially needed for the Eagles and the World Cup to end the considerable buzz that is American sport. The Rugby World Cup takes place between September and October, when the United States is already transfixed by NFL and college football, Major League Baseball pennant and playoff races, and the start of the NBA. and the NHL.
USA Rugby already has some experience. The Rugby World Cup Sevens at the San Francisco Giants’ baseball home in July 2018 drew over 100,000 people over three days, and decent US TV ratings on NBC.
“(The World Cups are) an invitation to increase our awareness levels, to increase the fan base of our sport,” said Victoria Folayan, who played rugby sevens for the US and is the USA athlete representative. Rugby. “Doors are opening. Being able to take that step is just the beginning.”
To that end, World Rugby’s experience of bringing its premier men’s tournament to Asia for the first time in 2015, when Japan hosted it, will be key in preparing the USA for its debut. Not only the public, but the selection itself.
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While the women’s team won the inaugural World Cup in 1991 and reached the final in the next two events, the men’s Eagles have never made it out of the group stage at a World Cup (three wins from 25 matches) and have basically not they can play. the best teams in the world annually.
As it did successfully for Japan, World Rugby will bring its coaching experience to the Eagles and look to give them further testing to improve. There is an ongoing attempt to shake up the men’s international calendar so that emerging nations like the United States have more opportunities.
Organizing the two World Cups will cost around $500 million, with profits and losses to be shared between World Rugby and USA Rugby, which filed for bankruptcy in 2020.
The offer was supported by the White House, with US President Joe Biden sending a letter to World Rugby last month giving government guarantees and his backing for the “development of rugby in the United States”.
The men’s Rugby World Cup is considered in some parts of the world to be the third largest sporting event, after the World Cup in soccer and the Summer Olympics.
The United States will host all three events over a five-year span beginning in 2026, beginning with the men’s soccer World Cup that year, co-hosted by Mexico and Canada, and then the Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028.
For the first time, World Rugby used a streamlined bidding process that allowed it to announce the hosts of all World Cups from 2025 to 2033, for both men and women.
The Sydney Harbor Bridge was lit up in green and gold after Australia won the men’s World Cup in 2027 and the women’s tournament in 2029. The men’s World Cup returns to Australia for the first time since 2003.
It is seen as an opportunity to rejuvenate rugby in the country, as the World Cups come on the heels of the British and Irish Lions’ tour of Australia in 2025, generating much-needed revenue for its governing body, Rugby Australia, which was seen severely affected by the pandemic. .
Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos called it “the start of a new era for Australian rugby”.
“Australia is set to become the center of the rugby world over the next decade,” he said, “and that is incredibly exciting.”
The 2027 tournament will mark the 40th anniversary of Australia and New Zealand hosting the first Rugby World Cup in 1987.
England was announced as the host of the Women’s World Cup in 2025.