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When it comes to sports in the United States, football, basketball, and baseball usually take center stage. However, beneath the surface, there’s a rich and intriguing history of another contact sport that has been steadily gaining ground – rugby. The journey of rugby in the USA is a tale of perseverance, growth, and a passion for a game that transcends borders.

Early Beginnings

Rugby’s presence in the USA dates back to the late 19th century when the sport was introduced primarily through college campuses. Harvard and Yale universities are often credited with playing pivotal roles in bringing rugby to American shores. The sport’s rough-and-tumble nature appealed to many, and it quickly found its place among college athletes.

The Split: Rugby and American Football

The story of rugby in the USA takes an interesting turn with the emergence of American football. In the late 1800s, there was a divide between those who preferred a more traditional rugby-style game and those who were drawn to the evolving rules of American football. The split ultimately led to the establishment of two distinct sports, with rugby often playing second fiddle to the widespread popularity of American football.

The Modern Resurgence

The late 20th century witnessed a renewed interest in rugby, thanks in part to increased international exposure. The inclusion of rugby sevens in the Olympic Games from 2016 onwards provided a platform for the sport to gain even more attention. Additionally, the establishment of Major League Rugby (MLR) in 2018 marked a significant milestone for the sport’s growth in the USA. MLR brought together professional teams from various regions, creating a dynamic league that showcased top-tier rugby talent on American soil.

The Present and Future

As of now, rugby continues to carve a niche for itself within the American sports landscape. Participation rates have been steadily rising, and the sport’s accessibility through schools, colleges, and community programs has contributed to its growing popularity. The USA Rugby Men’s and Women’s National Teams have also been making strides on the international stage, showcasing the nation’s talent and determination.


The history of rugby in the USA is a testament to the enduring spirit of a sport that has weathered challenges and persisted through decades of change. From its modest beginnings on college campuses to its modern-day resurgence through professional leagues and international competition, rugby’s journey in the USA is a tale of passion, dedication, and the power of a game that transcends borders. As the sport continues to gain momentum, its future shines brightly, promising even more thrilling chapters in the ongoing story of rugby in the United States.