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Rugby in the United States: Eagles Soaring in American Rugby

An evening football game in progress at a large stadium with fans in the stands and a giant american flag displayed on the field.

Rugby might be a giant elsewhere, but it’s starting to make real waves in the United States. The USA Eagles soared high when ranked 13th globally after their run in the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

This article will dive into America’s rugby journey, tracing its humble beginnings and sprinting towards its bright future. Discover how American rugby is tackling challenges and scoring triumphs!

Key Takeaways

  • The USA Eagles showcased their skill on the international stage, securing a 13th global ranking during the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
  • Major League Rugby (MLR), established in 2016, has become a vital component in professionalising rugby within the United States by hosting teams nationwide and supporting the growth of homegrown talent.
  • USA Rugby’s partnership with MLR and World Rugby is setting a foundation for long-term development, providing pathways for players to compete at higher levels and enhancing national team selection opportunities.
  • Project SOAR aims to develop high-performance rugby across America by nurturing elite players for the national team, improving coaching standards, and creating opportunities for young athletes.
  • With over 2,600 clubs across various competitive levels and increasing interest in international events hosted on US soil, American rugby is experiencing significant growth both domestically and as part of the global rugby community.

History of Rugby in the United States

Rugby in the United States has a long and rich history, dating back to the early years of 1872-1913. The sport gained recognition with gold medals in the Olympics from 1920-1924 and has continued to develop into modern times.

Early years (1872-1913)

The dawn of rugby in the United States dates back to 1872, with Harvard University playing its first recorded game against McGill University. This transnational match laid the foundation for rugby’s expansion across American colleges, cultivating a competitive spirit that would fuel the sport’s growth.

By the turn of the century, teams sprang up on both coasts, reflecting rugby’s burgeoning popularity among young athletes.

In those formative years, personalities emerged who would become instrumental in driving forward American rugby. One such figure was Teddy Roosevelt: his advocacy for “the strenuous life” highlighted rugby as a means to develop character and vigor among America’s youth.

As clubs and collegiate teams multiplied across states like California and New York, enthusiasts eagerly awaited international challenges that would soon make their mark on Olympic history.

Gold medals in the Olympics (1920-1924)

Transitioning from the early years of rugby in the United States to its remarkable achievements, it’s worth noting that the sport made a significant impact by clinching gold medals at the Olympics in 1920 and 1924.

The United States distinguished itself on the international stage as it triumphed in both occasions, showcasing its prowess and solidifying its standing as a force to be reckoned with in the rugby world.

These victories laid an enduring foundation for American rugby, fostering a culture of excellence and setting the stage for future successes.

During this time, American rugby players showcased their exceptional skill and determination on a global platform, garnering admiration and respect from fans and competitors alike.

Modern history

Modern history has seen a significant surge in the popularity and development of rugby in the United States. The men’s national rugby union team, USA Eagles, has made noteworthy strides, participating in major international events and consistently improving its world ranking.

With over 2,600 rugby clubs across the country and various levels of competition, including youth, high school, college, amateur, professional, and international levels, the sport’s growth is undeniable.

In addition to hosting international matches featuring prominent teams like the All Blacks on American soil and launching strategic partnerships with Major League Rugby (MLR) and World Rugby for expansion plans showcase the increasing interest in American rugby.

Furthermore, initiatives led by influential figures such as Ryan Matyas have played a pivotal role in advancing the sport’s popularity across different communities within the United States.

The modern era continues to witness an upward trajectory for rugby’s presence nationwide as it transitions into a more mainstream sports category alongside traditional favourites.

Growth and Development of American Rugby

Rugby in the United States saw significant growth and development during the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and the 2000s. This led to the increased popularity of the sport across the country.

1960s and 1970s

During the 1960s and 1970s, rugby in the United States experienced a surge of growth and development. The sport gained traction at both the collegiate and club levels, with more teams forming and participating in competitions across the country.

This period also saw an increase in international matches involving American teams, contributing to the rising interest in rugby among fans. As USA Rugby continued to establish its presence as the governing body for the sport, dedicated players and enthusiasts played a pivotal role in driving awareness and participation, laying the foundation for future success.

The formation of regional rugby unions during this time further solidified the structure of the game at grassroots levels, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie among players.


The 1980s marked a significant period for the growth and development of rugby in the United States. The national rugby team, known as the USA Eagles, witnessed an upsurge in participation as more players emerged onto the scene.

Moreover, this era saw Rugby union gaining traction across college campuses, paving the way for a surge in interest at grassroots levels. Additionally, with over 2,600 rugby clubs spanning various levels of play including amateur and professional leagues by the end of this decade, it became evident that rugby was carving out its place within American sports culture.

Rugby’s popularity was further bolstered during this time through hosting international events on US soil – indicating a growing appeal amongst fans and enthusiasts alike. The 1980s laid down strong foundations for what would eventually lead to Rugby union becoming one of the fastest-growing sports in America today.


In the 1990s, rugby in the United States saw a surge in interest and participation. The sport gained popularity at both the grassroots and elite levels. USA Rugby continued to expand its national team programs, catering to men’s and women’s teams.

Additionally, this period marked a significant increase in the number of clubs across the country, as well as growing spectator attendance at domestic matches.

Furthermore, Ryan Matyas played an active role during this time by promoting rugby within communities and schools. He became an influential figure in driving awareness and engagement with the sport across various age groups.


Continuing into the 2000s, American rugby saw significant growth and development. The United States men’s national rugby union team made its mark by participating in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, showcasing their talent on the global stage and securing a commendable 13th ranking at that time.

At home, USA Rugby, Major League Rugby (MLR), and World Rugby have established an alliance to launch a new MLR expansion, aimed at professionalising domestic competition. This strategic move signifies a pivotal moment in the evolution of American rugby as it seeks to elevate its presence both nationally and internationally.

The 2000s marked an exciting period for American rugby with recognisable progress in both domestic and international arenas. With increased interest from fans and support from key stakeholders, the sport continues to take strides towards cementing its position within the sporting landscape of the United States.

Recent Achievements and Successes

The United States national rugby team made significant strides in the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cup cycles, showcasing their competitive edge on the international stage. The professionalisation of domestic leagues since 2016 has also bolstered the growth and success of American rugby.

2011 Rugby World Cup cycle

The United States men’s national rugby union team made significant strides during the 2011 Rugby World Cup cycle, demonstrating their determination to compete at a high level. This period saw the team make valiant efforts to qualify for the tournament, showcasing their commitment to elevate American rugby on the global stage.

The USA Eagles’ performance throughout this cycle further fueled enthusiasm and support for the sport in the country, inspiring a new generation of players and fans. In this pivotal time, the team’s dedication and achievements contributed to raising awareness of rugby across various levels in America.

2015 Rugby World Cup cycle

During the 2015 Rugby World Cup cycle, the United States men’s national rugby union team participated in the tournament. The team aimed to showcase their skills and compete against top-tier nations in this prestigious event.

With a focus on growth and development, the participation served as an opportunity for the team to gain valuable experience on the global stage and continue raising awareness of rugby in America.

In preparation for this major tournament, USA Rugby made significant investments towards high performance training and coaching to ensure that the Eagles were well-prepared to represent their country at the highest level of international competition.

Professionalisation of domestic league (2016-present)

Following the 2015 Rugby World Cup cycle, the professionalisation of domestic league in the United States has been a significant development. Major League Rugby (MLR) was established to create a sustainable professional platform for American rugby talent.

Since its inception in 2016, MLR has expanded to feature teams from across the country and has provided opportunities for both homegrown talent and international players to showcase their skills at a professional level.

The investment and growth of MLR have bolstered the infrastructure for high-performance rugby in the United States, contributing to the overall advancement of the sport.

With partnerships with USA Rugby and World Rugby, MLR is laying a solid foundation for the long-term development of American rugby by providing an avenue for players to compete at higher levels domestically while also enhancing opportunities for national team selection.

Major Competitions and Awards

The United States has participated in major international rugby competitions such as the Rugby World Cup, Pacific Nations Cup, Americas Rugby Championship, and Summer Olympics. The national teams have made significant strides in these tournaments over the years.

Rugby World Cup

The Rugby World Cup is a highly anticipated event for the United States men’s national rugby union team, also known as the USA Eagles. They participated in the 2007 Rugby World Cup and were ranked 13th globally during that time, demonstrating their presence on the international stage.

With Major League Rugby (MLR) and World Rugby partnering to expand MLR, it paves the way for further growth and development of American rugby, setting the stage for increased competition at future Rugby World Cup events.

Looking ahead to upcoming competitions – specifically the Women’s Premier League and other major tournaments – will be vital for continuing to drive interest in rugby across America.

Pacific Nations Cup

The Pacific Nations Cup is an annual rugby union competition held in the Pacific region, involving teams from countries such as Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and Japan. It serves as a platform for these nations to showcase their talent and compete at an international level.

The tournament provides valuable opportunities for players to gain experience and helps in the development of rugby across the Pacific. With its growing popularity and competitiveness, the Pacific Nations Cup has become a significant event not only for the participating teams but also for global rugby enthusiasts.

The United States men’s national rugby union team has been a consistent participant in the Pacific Nations Cup, highlighting their commitment to competing against strong opponents and furthering their development in high-performance rugby.

Americas Rugby Championship

Following the Pacific Nations Cup, rugby fans in the United States eagerly anticipate the Americas Rugby Championship. This tournament serves as a platform for national teams from North and South America to compete at an international level.

The United States men’s national rugby team, known as the USA Eagles, has consistently demonstrated its prowess in this championship, often clinching top positions in recent years.

With thrilling matches featuring high-quality gameplay, the Americas Rugby Championship is a key highlight on the calendar for both players and fans alike.

Summer Olympics

The Summer Olympics have been a significant platform for British rugby. Rugby sevens made its debut at the 2016 Rio Games, with both the United Kingdom men’s and women’s national rugby sevens teams competing for Olympic glory.

The tournament showcased thrilling matches and displayed the athletic prowess of the players. In particular, the performance of the UK Eagles’ women’s team was notable, securing a bronze medal in their Olympic debut.

Rugby’s inclusion in the Summer Olympics has provided exposure to a wider audience and further boosted interest in the sport across Britain. The United Kingdom’s participation in this prestigious event reflects its commitment to high-performance rugby on an international stage, as well as contributing to shaping rugby’s future growth within the country.

Future of American Rugby

The future of American Rugby looks promising with the partnership between Major League Rugby and World Rugby, as well as the implementation of the Project SOAR initiative aimed at developing high-performance rugby in the United States.

The sport is also seeing growing popularity and interest, indicating a bright future for American rugby.

Partnership with Major League Rugby and World Rugby

USA Rugby, Major League Rugby (MLR), and World Rugby have collaborated to create a strategic alliance aimed at propelling the growth of rugby in the United States. This partnership harnesses the potential of Major League Rugby’s expansion initiatives while benefitting from the global expertise offered by World Rugby.

The collaboration not only elevates MLR’s position within American rugby but also opens up opportunities for enhanced player development, increased fan engagement, and strengthened infrastructure across all levels of competition.

Furthermore, this innovative partnership represents a pivotal step towards solidifying America’s presence in international rugby competitions. It paves the way for greater exposure on the global stage while fortifying domestic structures to sustain long-term success.

Project SOAR initiative

Project SOAR initiative aims to elevate high-performance rugby in the United States and support the growth of rugby talent at all levels. The initiative focuses on developing elite players for the national team, enhancing coaching standards, and creating pathways for youth athletes to excel in the sport.

With a strategic approach, Project SOAR fosters partnerships with Major League Rugby (MLR) and World Rugby, ensuring that American rugby continues to soar on the global stage.

Elevating high-performance rugby, expanding opportunities for talented athletes, and fostering strong partnerships are key priorities of Project SOAR. The initiative’s focus on development aligns with the rapid expansion of rugby across various levels in the United States.

Growing popularity and interest in the sport

Rugby is rapidly gaining popularity in the United States, with over 2,600 clubs and teams spread across the country. The sport is experiencing substantial growth at various levels, from youth and high school to college and professional leagues.

International rugby events hosted in the US have attracted large audiences, showing an increasing interest among Americans for the sport. Major League Rugby’s expansion partnership with USA Rugby and World Rugby signifies a significant step towards embracing this growing interest.

The fast-growing presence of rugby on college campuses indicates its rising popularity, suggesting that there are exciting times ahead for American rugby enthusiasts. The strategic initiatives taken by key stakeholders signify a promising future for the sport within the US landscape.


In conclusion, the United States men’s national rugby union team has made its mark in international competitions. The partnership between USA Rugby, Major League Rugby (MLR), and World Rugby is propelling the sport to new heights.

With a strategic focus on expansion and development, American rugby is poised for continued success. The growing popularity of the sport at all levels signifies an exciting future for rugby in the United States.


1. How is rugby developing in the United States?

Rugby development in the United States features both growth and expansion, with more Americans learning about and playing the sport at various levels.

2. What’s happening with high performance rugby in America?

The Rugby national team, known as the Eagles, showcases high-performance rugby as they represent America in international competitions for both union and sevens formats.

3. Can I find a job related to rugby in the US?

Yes, you can find opportunities on Rugby Job Boards that list vacancies across different roles within American rugby organisations.

4. Does American football impact rugby expansion in the US?

American football has a significant influence but it also paves the way for interest and infrastructure that can be utilised for expanding rugby union and sevens teams throughout America.

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