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Major League Rugby Season 3: The Overview

Photo Credit: Major League Rugby

Season 3 of Major League Rugby is just over a month away and it's time to get ready for more rugby in the United States. The Seattle Seawolves will look to defend their title for a second straight year, three more teams are joining the fray, the playoff format has changed and some big signings have been made. 

Recap of Season 2

The league added two more teams in New York and Toronto. With nine teams in the league and expanded 16 game schedule was introduced with each team playing the others home and away. Ben Foden became the first big signing of the league. And the Seattle Seawolves once again walked away with the shield after entering the title game as the underdog.

New Teams

Three new teams are joining Major League Rugby for the 2020 season: The New England Free Jacks playing at Union Point Stadium near Boston, Old Glory DC playing at Cardinal Stadium on the campus of Catholic University in DC, and Rugby ATL playing at Lupo Field on the campus of Life University in Marietta, Georgia.

Divisions

With 12 teams now in the league, and the teams relatively split between west and east, the league has decided to go to an east/west conference format. New England, New Orleans, Old Glory DC, RUNY, Rugby ATL, and Toronto make up the eastern conference. And Austin, Colorado, Houston, San Diego, Seattle, and Utah will make up the western conference.

Playoffs

The change to the conference format has brought along with a change in playoff format. Instead of the top four overall teams qualifying, now the top three from each conference will qualify. Seed #2 and Seed #3 will face each other in each conference, that winner will then face the #1 seed in conference, and finally the conference winners will face each other for the MLR Shield.

New Partnerships

The league has made the switch from XBlades to Paladin Sports for their official kit maker. MLR has also switched from Ram Rugby to Rhino Rugby as the official equipment sponsor for the league. The TV broadcast deal hasn't been officially announced yet, but we did get a clue from Commissioner Killibrew's conference at NOLA. Fox has been added as a broadcast partner in addition to CBS Sports. Further broadcast details to be released at a later date.

Big Signings

Some have worried that MLR could become a retirement league like MLS was once labeled, however the league doesn't have enough standing to be considered that yet. These signings help raise the profile and play of the league.

The big signings of this offseason have been Mathieu Basareaud (RUNY), Digby Ioane and Rene Ranger (Colorado), Ma'a Nonu (San Diego), Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira (DC), Juan Manuel Leguizam├│n (Seattle), and Kensuke Hatakeyama (New England).

The Future

Major League Rugby has said before that they expect to expand to 16 teams and then stop for a while as they don't want to dilute the American player pool too much. In Commissioner's Killibrew's conference in New Orleans, he confirmed the addition of Dallas and Los Angeles for 2021. Further expansion teams have been rumored from Miami, Halifax, Chicago, San Francisco, and Vancouver.

There could also be contraction in the league. The Guardian reported that the Colorado Raptors could leave the league. While nothing has been said, other than to confirm Colorado's participation in the 2020 season, it does leave fans to wonder what is going on behind the scenes.

This 2020 Major League Season has a feeling that something special will happen. What that is remains to be seen, but this league seems ready for a breakout in some way. The competition has gotten better each year and more fans are starting to check out the league. That momentum should continue throughout this season and into the future.

~Josh Fredlund.