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U.S. expects final OK for Rugby World Cups

By Thomas Leary

The United States is expected to be confirmed as the men’s Rugby World Cup host in 2031, as well as host to the women’s event two years later, following the World Rugby Council meeting on May 12. The official announcement will confirm the first time the men’s tournament is held in North or South America.

For USA Rugby World Cup Chairman Jim Brown, the bids — which were adjusted from the initial goal of hosting the men’s event as early as 2027 — will mark a significant moment in USA Rugby’s recovery from near financial failure in 2019, not to mention put a bow on the first bid process that has been run entirely during a pandemic. “That’s a piece of it,” Brown said. “A challenge internally was some early skepticism that we’d ever get this far. There was a lot of doubt that this was going to happen.”

The bids for 2031 and 2033 received a significant boost last month when President Joe Biden threw his support behind the effort. USA Rugby CEO Ross Young said Biden’s support was “hugely beneficial to hopefully remove some of those potential questions that might come around this ratification process.” 

Young said Biden’s support “shows there is this undertaking that is in place and that we will get what’s required from those federal sources down the line. … It puts us in the same scale as a FIFA or an IOC and shows where World Rugby’s standing is.”

Brown last month put the cost of the joint bid between World Rugby and USA Rugby at around half a billion dollars. The U.S. bids include 24 cities that have pledged official support for either or both World Cups, with the understanding the events would use NFL, college and MLS stadiums in those markets.

Offering a place to play

Potential host markets for Rugby World Cup matches
Atlanta; Austin; Baltimore; Birmingham; Boston; Charlotte; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Kansas City; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; Miami; Nashville; New York / New Jersey; Orlando; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Pittsburgh; San Diego; San Francisco Bay Area; Seattle; Washington, D.C.

While the expected announcement will signal a victory for rugby stateside, Young also will see it as a point “where the real work starts.” For USA Rugby, that will center on a concurrent development and legacy program in partnership with World Rugby to elevate the game across youth, high school and YMCA programming in the lead-up to the World Cup events. Young: “All of that needs a bit of money and impetus. That whole pillar is hugely important, and we can’t just sit around and wait. If we’re going to maximize this opportunity, we need to start that now.”

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