Major League Rugby championship comes to Chicago
With Chicago's traditional professional sports franchises languishing in mediocrity, we've decided to embark on a summer series highlighting other professional leagues and events happening around town.
First up: Rugby.
Driving the news: On Saturday, Major League Rugby is holding its championship in Bridgeview at SeatGeek Stadium.
- The match between the New England Free Jacks and the San Diego Legion will be punctuated with parties and concerts, featuring DJ Diesel (Shaquille O'Neal) and Dropkick Murphys.
Details: Rugby is played professionally all over the world, but in Chicago it's been mainly a club sport, although big exhibitions have come to Soldier Field.
- As a rugby-playing friend told me, "It's a hooligan's sport played by gentlemen."
Objective: Not unlike football, players must move the ball across the opponents "try line" (goal line). Each time you make the try zone, it's 5 points.
- You can carry, pass or kick the ball, but it must be pitched backward, not forward.
Signature play: When a player is tackled, they must give the ball to the other team. Before doing so, teammates create a "ruck" around the ball, creating a barrier that the other squad has to physically push through.
The intrigue: It's a violent sport. Similar to football, there are big hits and collisions, and the athletes rarely wear pads.
Local ties: In Major League Rugby, Chicago's squad is called the Hounds. This was the Hounds' inaugural season, and they went 3-13.
- They play their home games at SeatGeek Stadium, and the season runs from February to June.
What they're saying: "Rugby is the fastest growing team sport in the US," Chicago Hounds CEO James English tells Axios.
- "Rugby isn’t for everyone, it’s for anyone."
The bottom line: Rugby is not new to Chicago. But the Hounds are, and they're bringing the club sport greater visibility.
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