Rugby is not among the most popular sports in the United States and is not celebrated as much as it is in England or Australia but there is a strong contingent of fiercely loyal fans and players. The International Rugby Board classifies the United States as a growing market but still uncompetitive in international play.
It is, however, growing quickly as more and more youth are picking it up at an early age.
USA Rugby is the governing body that oversees rugby play from young men into professional, including college rugby which is the fastest growing segment of rugby union play in the United States. College rugby is not, however, part of the NCAA.
The United States holds the 1920 and 1924 Rugby gold medal but the decline in the sport’s popularity meant athletic talent went to play other sports. A slow increase in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s led to the formation of USA Rugby.
Though rugby was added to the 1900 Olympics it was discontinued after 1924, making the United States the reigning champions. This means international rugby play is very much in its nascent stages. The World Cup has only been held every four years since 1987. The U.S. has qualified for all but one and only 20 teams participate in the tournament each year.
But even with a sport growing in popularity and a decent national team, professional rugby in America has not faired well. Rugby Super League was USA Rugby’s attempt at creating a professional rugby championship with the U.S. The league lasted 15 years and ultimately couldn’t grow a big enough audience.
Women’s USA rugby has done very well, however, having a World Cup championship under their belt and six quarterfinal appearances in seven years of play.
The United States Eagles, as they are called, will be playing in this year’s World Cup which will be held in England beginning on September 18th.