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Rugby officials have high hopes for U.S. World Cups

By awarding the '31 men’s and '33 women’s Rugby World Cups to the U.S., rugby officials are "hoping for something similar" to the '94 FIFA World Cup that "helped kick-start a soccer boom" in the U.S, according to Victor Mather of the N.Y. TIMES. The '31 tournament will be the "first men’s Rugby World Cup held anywhere in the Western Hemisphere." The women’s event was held in Canada in '06. Because rugby’s reach is "more geographically limited," it does not "reach the viewership heights enjoyed by soccer’s World Cup and the Olympics." But the men’s event is "one of a handful of international competitions that can plausibly make the claim to being the third largest sporting event in the world." Rugby officials acknowledged Thursday that they were "looking to expand the sport’s profile and reach." Yet, rugby has "always struggled to find a footing in the crowded American sports landscape, already loaded with professional and college games in sports far more familiar to American fans." Increasingly, international events have "intrigued those fans," but soccer games and F1 races "remain a few steps ahead of rugby" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/12). The AP's Steve Douglas notes USA Rugby CEO Ross Young described the decision to have the U.S. host as a "paradigm-shifting catalyst for the growth of our sport, not only here in the United States but around the world." Young said, "USA Rugby will now venture into a new era and ensure the sport’s most treasured event is a springboard for creating lasting, sustainable enthusiasm and passion for rugby from coast to coast" (AP, 5/12).

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