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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Death, Survivial & Rebirth - MLR 2024

Two teams folded (for now). One team packed up and relocated to the sunny hills of L.A. Another new team in the Queen City with a focus on young American MLR minutes. After Glendale came and went, followed by Gilly-Gate, did anyone actually think the MLR Front Office timeline could get any wackier?

Yet here we are. Year 7 loading and the shield has never looked shinier. With World Rugby's decision to financially back Anthem Rugby Carolinas, we've been tapped as the rugby union of the future (fingers crossed it will all work out). Will the 2031 RWC be a smashing success, or will gigantic stadiums be left under attended? We've got seven more years to get it as supercharged as we can before we host the pinnacle event.

12 Teams,  A balanced East & West ... can you spot the only two colors missing from the Crayola palate?

With seven years in, and seven to go ... how will MLR shake out in a pivotal year? The men's Eagles have to begin a winning form heading into future RWC Qualifiers. The only way to do that is to have a thriving domestic comp to select the best players from. As of now, all teams have enough talent to win games. Charlotte, Miami and LA may have a learning curve being fresh-out-the-box franchises, but there's no doubt all three clubs will win big games throughout the season.

So the ultimate question is ... who will rise up and hoist the shield come August 3rd at Snap Dragon Stadium in San Diego? Can New England repeat and defend their crown? Can the Legion return to the final and win in front of a home crowd? Will Seattle become the first franchise to win three titles ... (and does that count as a dynasty?) Depth is always a factor leading into playoffs ... Who is healthy at the right time? With 16 game regular season, followed up with 3 rounds of knock out rugby, which squads will have the player depth to see it through? 

With 8/12 teams making the knockout rounds, the better question is "Who Won't Make It?"

The regular season ends June 29th, and the PLAYOFFS?! begin THREE WHOLE WEEKS LATER. Yes, this is to accommodate the summer test rugby window .... but we've never seen a break like this in any major sports league heading into the knockout rounds. Will this elongated break allow teams to get healthier, and will that result in more appealing QF matchups? Or will the fans' summer attentions spans dwindle and result in poor attendances? Knowing the average temps throughout the US in late July, we don't need Paris Hilton to tell us "That's Hot". We know the hardcore fans will ride and die in blistering temps for a home knockout game, but will the casuals fans show up? After all, if we want to fill our stadiums come RWC 2031, it's the Casuals that we need to be winning over.

With a balanced 12 team league, the fans will be happy to absorb all the rugby we can each week. Six games a weekend ain't bad. Maybe shedding wavering investors like snake skin will be good for the league in the long-term. Until 2031 arrives, we'll still be holding our breath every off-season when the capital calls are due. In the meantime, the show goes on...


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