History

A game with an American legacy.

The very first rugby game in the U.S. was played in 1875 in Boston between McGill and Harvard. Since that first game, American rugby has claimed the gold medal in the 1920 Olympics and continued to attract players and fans alike.

American rugby dates back to the 1800s, where variations of American football, rugby and soccer were played at universities on the East Coast. During the second half of the century, rugby began to spread across the US, moving from university to university. The game spread from the Northeast out West by way of Texas and Utah. The growth was slowed by the emergence of American football.

Regardless, rugby continued to grow through the early 1900s. Between 1905 and 1913, the US received regular visits from New Zealand and Australian touring sides, at a time where gridiron football was receiving criticism for being too rough.

In 1924, American rugby reached the pinnacle of its early 20th century success when a motley group of Stanford rugby players beat France to win an Olympic Gold Medal. This came after being initially denied entrance to the country by customs officials. The win in Paris caused an uproar, forcing the Americans to battle a hostile crowd to exit the stadium. Rugby was subsequently removed as an olympic sport, and the United States reigned as Olympic champions until the game was reintroduced in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Today, American rugby is growing at a dramatic pace. As American’s interest in rugby has begun to catch up with the rugby frenzy felt throughout the rest of the world, the need for a professional association became clear.

In 2017, driven by our passion for the game, Major League Rugby came together with the mission of driving American rugby to the highest levels, as a professional sport and an avenue for young men and women to participate in sports, and learn about the values that are at the core of our game: teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship