The Growth of Rugby in US College Sports

4 min read

The recent announcement of the USA’s successful joint venture to host the 2031 Men’s and 2033 Women’s Rugby World Cup tournaments is yet another testament to the rapid overseas growth and prominence of the sport at both the college and professional levels.

The expansion of men’s rugby has shown a steady and consistent increase over the past 10 years, with over 90 collegiate programs already established across NCAA Division I, II, and II, as well as both NAIA and NJCAA associations.

Since 2002, women’s rugby has been listed as an official NCAA Emerging Sport and is the only recognised full-contact women’s sport across the college athletics spectrum. An emerging sport within the college perspective is a women’s sport recognized by the NCAA that is intended to help schools provide more athletics opportunities for women and more sport-sponsorship options for the institutions, and help that sport achieve NCAA championship status.

The Emerging Sport designation allows the sport to grow its membership to at least 40 varsity programs prior to being granted full NCAA championship status, with the current women’s rugby landscape already featuring around 25 official programs across the various levels and associations.

Martin Lavelle, Head of Rugby at FirstPoint USA recently spoke on the impact across the wider international rugby community of its growth in the States:

“Rugby in the US is on the rise with the successful 2031 and 2033 World Cup bids. The bids being backed by the President show the growth that rugby is having in the US and it’s only going to continue to grow.

Having Major League Rugby up and running and having marquee signings joining from major international teams such as Ma’a Nonu and Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira, both World Cup winners, is helping to boost the profile within the US rugby community and the wider international rugby audience.

The college game is also seeing growth with more rugby programs being developed and receiving financial support from their athletic departments which provides US and International college-age athletes with more and more opportunities being made available to them. It’s also seeing a higher number of crossover athletes coming from more traditional US sports which again, in turn, highlights the growing popularity of rugby in the US. The Collegiate Rugby Championships 7s has an agreement on a 2-year deal with CBS Sports which will further increase the reach of rugby amongst a growing US audience

The US could be a major force on the international stage in the future and with rumours persisting of a major international coach coming in to aid the development of the national squad the future is bright for the sport. If the US Eagles soar on the pitch, then the popularity will continue to soar off it”

The introduction and early adoptive fandom of Major League Rugby has also contributed to the raising of the ceiling across the sport in America and provides a more structured, linear pathway for college players to make the leap into professional life. Mirroring the association-based ideology of the other major sports in the US has allowed the infrastructure within rugby to scale at a much higher rate to meet the growing demand.

Securing a rugby scholarship with FirstPoint USA  

As the world’s leading sports scholarship consultancy, we have over 20 years of experience in recruiting and placing rugby players in some of the top programs in the United States, and through close-working strategic partnerships with some of the world’s most reputable rugby associations, including Hong Kong Rugby Union, our vast international scouting network is perfectly equipped to on-board the very best talent.

FirstPoint USA has a dedicated team of specialist talent management consultants who have assisted thousands of young athletes to propel their athletic and academic careers through successful partnerships with top U.S institutions. In addition to this, we also have robust processes and support tools in place to help you understand the intricacies of your scholarship options, so we’re with you every step of the way.

For more information on the life-changing opportunities for young men and women that a rugby scholarship in the USA can provide, why not schedule a call with one of our specialist consultants today.

FirstPoint USA is an international scouting service, providing recruitment services to hundreds of NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA member institutions seeking to identify the very best in overseas talent, both male and female.

The company was founded in 2001 by former University of Cincinnati All-American and Hall of Fame inductee, Andrew Kean, and evaluates over 100,000 prospective student-athletes, competing in over 20 different sports, across 187 countries each year.

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