Professional rugby union in the United States will rise again in 2018 in the form of Major League Rugby (MLR) which claimed in a press release late last week that it will become the premier rugby competition in the United States.
Formed and owned mostly by a group of pre-existing domestic clubs the inaugural league will feature nine teams in a competition to run in the spring of 2018 and to climax before the June international test window.
MLR will launch with members in: Glendale, CO; Kansas City, MO; Dallas, TX; Houston, TX; Austin, TX; New Orleans, LA; Seattle, WA; Minneapolis, MN; and Salt Lake City, UT.
A final team and venue list, player contract information, and 2018 schedule will be released in the coming months. Beyond 2018, MLR plans to expand to more cities with an emphasis on finding the right partners, markets and venues.
US rugby website rugbytoday.com reports that the league will be run from Salt Lake City, and the current front office includes commissioner Dean Howes and deputy commissioner Nick Benson. Howes is said to have had an extensive background in professional sport, having formerly been involved with NHL and MLS in the city.
MLR is owned by its member teams, all of which own themselves. This is in contrast to the recently failed PRO Rugby model which was owned centrally by Doug Schoninger. PRO is still the sole professional league sanctioned by USA Rugby. Although no official comment has been issued, the national governing body is expected to exercise an exit clause, which would see sanctioning of PRO to end in the spring of 2018 in time for the first MLR season.