Jan 22, 2024 - Sports

Major League Rugby expands to Charlotte

A player gets tackled in the Major League Rugby championship.

The 2023 Major League Rugby championship. Photo: Courtesy of Major League Rugby

Charlotte has a new professional sports team.

Driving the news: Major League Rugby, the sport's top-tier league in North America, last week announced plans to expand to Charlotte.

  • The team is a partnership between MLR, World Rugby (the international governing body for the sport) and USA Rugby (the national governing body for the sport).

Why it matters: The expansion team, called Anthem Rugby Carolina, will primarily be used as a developmental team for the USA Eagles, the men's national team, ahead of the 2031 men's Rugby World Cup.

Context: Using Charlotte as a development hub isn't new for the three governing bodies. The trio established the Charlotte-based Hawks, a developmental squad, last March.

  • Anthem RC is the first time they've come together to back a professional team.
  • The growth of rugby in the United States is the primary goal, MLR commissioner Nic Benson tells Axios.

Details: Anthem RC will play at American Legion Memorial Stadium in Elizabeth. The 18-week regular season runs from March through June. Players will be announced in the coming weeks.

  • Anthem RC's inaugural match is scheduled for March 3 at 7pm at Memorial Stadium. Ticket prices are TBD, but should range from $20-30, per Benson.
  • Average league attendance is 3,000 fans per match, Benson says. Memorial Stadium holds 10,500 people.
  • Matches are 80 minutes (two 40-minute halves). There's no forward passing and no blocking, but tackling is alive and well and a very important part of the game, Benson tells Axios with a laugh.

The intrigue: The league is heading into its seventh season.

  • Its journey thus far hasn't been without hurdles, including teams folding.

The big picture: Charlotte's professional sports landscape continues to grow. Elizabeth's historic Memorial Stadium will be home to two more professional teams this year, including a new women's professional soccer team, which kicks off in August.

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