MLR, the USA’s fledgling professional rugby competition, is about to enter its third season, kicking off on February 9, with three new expansion teams.
I have adopted the Utah Warriors, whose head coach was recently announced as former Wallabies great Chris Latham. I always think it is best to adopt one team to put the competition into focus.
In the same way, I have adopted London Irish (the Exiles – the battlers) in the Premiership, with eight Aussies (Adam Coleman, Saia Fainga’a, Curtis Rona, Nick Phipps, Ben Meehan, Sekope Kepu, Ollie Hoskins and Dave Porecki) in their line-up.
The Utah Warriors play at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, which has a seating capacity of 5000. The adjacent training facility includes two full-sized indoor turf fields. The Warriors share the venue with Real Monarchs, a USL Championship football team affiliated with MLS outfit Real Salt Lake.
The playing roster includes 17 from the USA, four from South Africa, three Tongans, three Kiwis, two Fijians, and one each from Zimbabwe, Samoa, Germany, Canada and Australia.
The one Aussie is Richard Stanford, a flanker/lock who has previously represented the Brumbies, Force and the Waratahs, making his senior debut in 2006 for the Brumbies. Born in Wellington, NSW, he has also represented Easts in the Shute Shield and the Melbourne Rebels and NSW Country Eagles in the NRC.
The league has seen steady growth since its inaugural season last year, expanding from seven teams and 31 matches in season one to nine teams and 75 matches in season two in 2019. MLR will add three teams and expand its regular season to 96 matches when it kicks off its third season on February 9 (Australian time, Feb 8 local).
The New England Free Jacks, Old Glory DC in Washington DC, and Atlanta’s Rugby ATL are set to join, bringing the total number of teams to 12.
The teams will be divided into two conferences this year — a Western Conference comprising Austin, Houston, Glendale, San Diego, Seattle and Utah and an Eastern Conference featuring Atlanta, New England, Washington DC, New Orleans, New York and Toronto.
A final will be played between the best team from each conference on June 22 (Australian time, June 21 local) 2020.