USA Rugby, Major League Rugby and World Rugby launch ground-breaking partnership with MLR expansion club

Fri, Jan 19, 2024, 1:58 PM
by Calder Cahill.

Anthem Rugby Carolina to provide growth pathways for USA in advance of Rugby World Cup 2031.

USA Rugby, Major League Rugby (MLR) and World Rugby are pleased to officially announce a strategic partnership to launch a new MLR expansion club in Charlotte, North Carolina, named Anthem Rugby Carolina (RC). The new club will immediately join competition for the 2024 season, with American Legion Memorial Stadium serving as its match day home.

This ground-breaking partnership between the governing bodies for global and American rugby, as well as North America’s premier professional rugby league, represents a significant investment and collaboration in the growth and development of the game in the United States, as future hosts of the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups in 2031 and 2033 respectively. The team will predominantly be made up of the most exciting young American talent available and will solidify MLR as the primary pathway for America’s best rugby players who have aspirations to play for their country.

MLR and USA Rugby have previously collaborated to support the USA Hawks, an initiative focused on helping young American players and USA-qualified prospects grow as elite rugby players via a dedicated performance pathway. Anthem RC, through the relationship with World Rugby and USA Rugby, will greatly accelerate that high-performance objective by supporting the long-term goals of the USA men’s national team in advance of qualification for Rugby World Cup 2027 and hosting the 2031 edition on home soil.

“The new club is a game-changer for American rugby and will create new pathways for player development and grassroots participation, building on the outstanding foundation our teams have forged during the past seven years.” said Nic Benson, CEO of MLR. “We’re grateful to the leadership of both World Rugby and USA Rugby for their partnership in this endeavor as we work towards our shared goal of a record breaking 2031 Rugby World Cup on US soil. Charlotte is one of the best sports cities in the country, with a passionate fan base for everything from basketball to soccer, and we’re thrilled to be able to bring home its first professional rugby franchise. There already is a great rugby community in Charlotte, and I’m excited to introduce this sport to new fans across the Carolinas.”

USA Rugby CEO, Ross Young added: “This remarkable collaboration between MLR, USA Rugby and World Rugby is an inspiring example of progress we can look forward to as rugby in America begins a new trajectory. Anthem RC provides a truly unique opportunity for accelerated development with USA Rugby High Performance while continuing to bolster MLR as a key pathway for the USA Men’s Eagles. The level of teamwork that has occurred across all parties to bring this project to life is unprecedented and we’re thrilled to see it on a rugby pitch this year.”

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin hailed the development as a major milestone in an overall strategy to grow rugby competitiveness and interest in the USA ahead of home Rugby World Cups. “Working with strategic partners in the USA, and backed by our Executive Board, we are activating a transformative and long-term growth plan for rugby in the US that will enable a great sporting nation, and the sport as a whole, to unlock the true potential of hosting men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups in 2031 and 2033 respectively.

“This ambitious plan is centered around making the sport more relevant and accessible to more people in the US, a nation that loves sport and events, anchored in entertainment. In addition to accelerating the clear potential of women’s rugby and cementing sevens in USA sports culture, we must sustainably grow the elite men’s game and for the USA Eagles national team to be successful on the world stage.

“Today’s announcement is a major milestone to achieving that. Coupled with long-term global calendar certainty, our investment, along with our partners, will provide an opportunity for a well-supported high performance pathway geared towards achieving results on the world stage. This type of partnership has proven successful for Rugby World Cup 2023 quarter-finalists Fiji with the establishment of the Drua, and we are excited about the huge potential of Anthem RC, not just as a pathway, but as a major franchise within a long-term vision for MLR success, shared by all stakeholders.”

The club’s inaugural roster features players from various MLR teams who are eligible to participate on behalf of the USA in international competition. The addition of Anthem RC also brings back the two-conference approach the league has relied on the past few seasons.

Anthem RC embraces the concept of rising stars throughout its brand, symbolic of the efforts of the new club to invest and grow American rugby. Inspired by the U.S. national anthem, it also features distinct connections to the Charlotte community by drawing from its rich military heritage and incorporating a recognizable color palette that draws from the smoky tones of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

For more information on the team, schedule and tickets go to