USA Rugby

On May 5, 1874, Harvard University hosted Montreal’s McGill University at Cambridge, Mass., in the first recorded rugby game on American soil. While there are no real records of the match and no one remembers who won, the game sparked an interest on college campuses nationwide.

As American rugby’s popularity began to grow, rugby was soon included as a sport in four Olympic Games (1900, 1908, 1920, 1924), and the United States claimed victories in both the 1920 and 1924 Games.

Shortly after the 1924 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) removed rugby as an Olympic sport. Without the Olympic incentive, the sport’s growth in America collapsed and the game remained dormant for the next half century.

However, the sport has enjoyed a renaissance, beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the 1970s. This created the need for a national governing body to represent the USA in the International rugby community. Four territorial organizations gathered in Chicago, Ill., in 1975 and formed the United States of America Rugby Football Union (now known as USA Rugby).

The organization has approximately 90,000 members and is responsible for the development of the boys, girls, high school, collegiate and club rugby programs, and ultimately all of the national teams representing the U.S. in international competitions. USA Rugby also runs all of the collegiate rugby tournaments in the US. Rugby teams in most universities are classified as a club sport programs. USA Rugby organizes annual Championship tournaments, which takes place in the spring. College teams compete in their sub-leagues to qualify for one of 16 spots in the national championship.

Popularity for rugby in the US has been increasing mostly in rugby sevens, a shorter version of the game and with fewer players. The United States hosts an international Sevens tournament in Las Vegas every year as one of the eight HSBC Sevens World Series tournaments. Rugby Sevens has been added to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. The re-inclusion of rugby in the Olympics has sparked the sudden increase in popularity for the sport not only the US, but all around the world.

Rugby has long been considered a niche sport in the United States but it is increasingly becoming mainstream in U.S. high schools and at the youth level over the last four years and this trend is seen around the globe and not just in the U.S.

Since the 2007 Rugby World Cup the sport has seen a 19 percent increase in participation according to numbers reported in the 2011 Economic Impact Report on Global Rugby: Strategic and Emerging Markets, commissioned by Mastercard Worldwide.

"These are extremely exciting times for rugby with strong growth and participation worldwide," said International Rugby Board chairman Bernard Lapasset. "This report ... underlines that growth is not just continuing, but is accelerating and is as prominent in emerging rugby markets as traditional rugby countries."

When looking at the numbers since 2004, US participation had increased by 350 percent, according to the report.

About USA Rugby:

USA Rugby is an official member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the International Rugby Board (IRB). USA Rugby's national headquarters is located in Boulder, Colorado, and is run by full-time staff under the direction of current CEO and President of Rugby Operations Nigel Melville.