USA Rugby League
Current season or competition:
2023 USARL season
USARL_logo.png
SportRugby league
Instituted2011
Inaugural season2011
ChairmenPeter Illfield (INC Chairman)
Danny Hanson (Domestic Chairman)
Number of teams14
CountryUnited States United States
Champions Santa Rosa Dead Pelicans (1st title) (2023)
Most titles Philadelphia Fight (4 titles)
Websiteusarl.com
usarl.us (domestic competition)

The USA Rugby League (formally the US Association of Rugby League, Inc.) is the national governing body for rugby league, a code of rugby football, in the United States.

The organization also runs the national amateur competition for club teams in the United States. The league consists of six teams located in east coast states whose season ends in the USARL Grand Final. The regular season is played between May and September.

The league was founded in 2011 by clubs that had broken with the established American National Rugby League (AMNRL), plus expansion franchises. The USARL began its inaugural season in 2011 with eight teams. The USARL was granted affiliate membership in November 2014 of the RLIF and RLEF, replacing the AMNRL which is now defunct.[1]

History

2011–2012: Foundation

The formation of the USA Rugby League was announced on January 12, 2011. Seven teams that had previously competed in the American National Rugby League, the United States' established rugby league organization and recognized governing body for the sport, announced they were breaking with the AMNRL to form a new league. The stated reason for the split was dissatisfaction with the governance of the AMNRL; the departing teams were unhappy with the lack of club involvement in the league's decision making, and the new league was founded with the principle of including its member clubs in its administration.[2][3][4]

The departing AMNRL teams were the Boston Thirteens, the Washington, D.C. Slayers, the Fairfax Eagles, the Jacksonville Axemen, the New Haven Warriors, the Philadelphia Fight, and the Pittsburgh Vipers; they were to be joined by two new teams, the New Jersey Turnpike Titans and Kodiak Rugby from New York City. Before the season Pittsburgh and Fairfax became "developmental" teams in the new league outside of the top-tiered competition; Fairfax subsequently suspended operations.[5] The New York team was unable to find a suitable stadium in the city, and instead became the Rhode Island Rebellion.[6] One additional team, Oneida FC, joined the top-tiered competition for the 2011 season.[7]

On January 13, 2011, the USARL announced that Peter Illfield, chairman of the Philadelphia Fight, would be the league's first chairman.[8][9] The league's first event was a rugby league nines tournament in the Philadelphia area on May 28–29, 2011. Round 1 of the regular season championship kicked off on June 4; the Jacksonville Axemen won the minor premiership with the best regular season record. In the inaugural Grand Final on August 27, the Philadelphia Fight defeated the New Haven Warriors to win their first ever national championship.[10]

2013–2014: Expansion

In 2013 the USARL and AMNRL increased their focus on reunification, particularly after the United States' encouraging showing at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. An independent commission assembled to lead negotiations, however the USARL clubs eventually pulled out. USARL commissioner Peter Illfield blamed apparent dysfunction and disorganization in the AMNRL organization for this decision. The USARL subsequently invited AMNRL clubs to join their ranks as full members and initiated a four-team expansion.[11]

In 2014, the USARL expanded to 10 teams, adding expansion squads Atlanta Rhinos, Central Florida Warriors, and Tampa Mayhem. In addition, the Northern Virginia Eagles withdrew from the AMNRL and joined the USARL.[12] To reduce operating costs, the competition was split into two conferences.[13] Meanwhile, the AMNRL suspended its 2014 season.

2015–2020: AMNRL folds

In 2015, the AMNRL folded, leaving the USARL as the undisputed top-level rugby league competition in the United States. Three former AMNRL clubs joined the USARL; Bucks County Sharks, Connecticut Wildcats, and New York Knights. The Delaware Black Foxes also joined as an expansion squad. For 2016, the Connecticut Wildcats left the competition and were replaced by the White Plains Wombats. Before the 2017 season, the D.C. Slayers and Bucks County Sharks left the competition, and the USARL abolished the division structure within the North Conference. Before the 2018 season, the Central Florida Warriors left the competition and were replaced by Southwest Florida Copperheads and Danny Hanson was appointed the second league chairman. The Rhode Island Rebellion also left the competition. The New York Knights left the competition after the 2018 season.[14]

2021–2022: NARL era

USARL membership has been in flux since the announcement of the North American Rugby League in spring 2021. Boston 13s and Philadelphia Fight left USARL to be founding members of the new competition. White Plains folded after NARL established the New York Freedom. Northern Virginia folded after most of its players joined the newly established DC Cavalry in NARL. Lakeland Renegades suspended operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 USARL season was contested by six teams. Philadelphia and Delaware in the North; Tampa, Jacksonville, Southwest Florida Copperheads, and South Florida Speed in the South. USARL South Championships Tampa Mayhem defeated North winners Delaware Black Foxes in the championship. The North Division has been unable to play in 2022. Multiple forfeits by South Florida Speed in July 2022 have put their future with USARL in doubt.

2023: Playing on both Coasts

2023 has seen significant expansion. Atlanta Rhinos rejoined the USARL, playing in the South Division. Pacific Coast Rugby League (PCRL) joined USARL, operating on the West Coast. PCRL brought Los Angeles Mongrel, San Diego Barracudas, and Santa Rosa Dead Pelicans – all formerly part of California Rugby League – as well as the newly formerly Los Angeles Bandidos into USARL. Additionally, four Utah teams, Riverton Seagulls, Herriman Roosters, Glendale Storm and Provo Broncos began playing USARL sanctioned matches as affiliates of PCRL. In August 2023, the first ever coast to coast National Champion was crowned with Santa Rosa Dead Pelicans defeating defending champions Jacksonville Axemen, 20–16.

Structure

Since 2022, the season has started with the Naples 9s rugby league nines tournament. The tournament is hosted by Southwest Florida Copperheads at the Paradise Coast Sports Complex. The 2022 men's champion was a USARL Exiles team. In 2023, the Jamaica national team won the men's and women's competitions.

Regular season

The USARL is split into two conferences, South and Pacific Coast. In the South Conference, teams play a double round-robin schedule of 8 games. In the Pacific, the ran by the Pacific Coast Rugby League is split into two Conferences, known by their respective state in Utah and California. Both conferences play a double round-robin schedule of 6 games. Teams qualify for the playoffs based on point differential, with a win counting for 2 points, a draw for 1, a loss for 0, and a forfeit for −2. The regular season runs through May and July.

Play-offs

In the South Conference, the top four teams make the playoffs. The teams with the best and worst records, and the second- and third-best records, play each other in the South Conference semi-finals. The winners meet in the South Conference finals. In the Pacific Coast Conference, the top two teams in the each state will play-off to be their respective conference champion. Afterwards, the Utah and California champions meet to crown the overall champion. The winners of the South Conference finals meet the winners of the Pacific Coast Conference finals in the USARL Grand Final, held in late August or early September.

Teams

USA Rugby League is located in the United States
Mongrel
Mongrel
Bandidos
Bandidos
Sacramento
Sacramento
Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa
Locations of teams for 2024 USARL season
  • PCRL Division
  • South Division
South Conference
Colors Club Founded City (MSA) Stadium Titles
(Last)
Atlanta Rhinos 2014 Roswell, GA Elkins Pointe Middle School 1 (2017)
Jacksonville Axemen 2006 Jacksonville, FL UNF Rugby Field 3 (2022)
Southwest Florida Copperheads 2018 Naples, FL Paradise Coast Sports Complex 0 (N/A)
Tampa Mayhem 2014 Tampa, FL Hillsborough High School 1 (2021)
Pacific Coast Conference (Utah and California)
Colors Club Founded City (MSA) Stadium Title
(Last)
Los Angeles Mongrel 2019 Los Angeles, California Various 0
Los Angeles Bandidos 2022 Los Angeles, California Various 0
Sacramento Immortals 2020 Sacramento, California Danny Nunn Park 0
San Diego Barracudas 2020 San Diego, California Various 0
Santa Rosa Dead Pelicans 2018 Santa Rosa, California For Pete's Sake Field 1 (2023)
West LA Jackrabbits 2024 Los Angeles, California TBA 0
Herriman Roosters 2022 Herriman, Utah Burgess Park
Riverton Seagulls 2022 Riverton, Utah Burgess Park
Provo Broncos 2022 Provo, Utah Burgess Park
Glendale Storm 2022 Glendale, Utah Burgess Park

Former teams

Former Teams
Colors Club Years Active City (MSA) Stadium Titles
(Last)
Baltimore Blues 2012–2014 Baltimore 0 (N/A)
Boston Thirteens 2011–2020 Boston Eastern Boston Stadium 1 (2015)
Brooklyn Kings 2014–2020 Brooklyn Randalls Island Field 10 1 (2019)
Bucks County Sharks 1997–2016 Bucks County, PA (Trenton) Falls Township Park 0 (N/A)
Central Florida Warriors 2014–2017 Deland, FL Spec Martin Stadium 0 (N/A)
Connecticut Wildcats 2003–2015 Norwalk, CT Andrews Field 0 (N/A)
D.C. Slayers 2003–2016 Washington, D.C. Duke Ellington Field 0 (N/A)
Delaware Black Foxes 2015–2020 Wilmington, DE Eden Park Stadium 0 (N/A)
Northern Virginia Eagles 2007–2020 Nokesville, VA Grizzly Sports Complex 0 (N/A)
Lakeland Renegades 2019–2020 Lakeland, FL All Saints Academy 0 (N/A)
New Haven Warriors 2006–2012 West Haven, CT (New Haven) Ken Strong Stadium 0 (N/A)
New Jersey Turnpike Titans 2011–2012 Jersey City, NJ Cochran Stadium 0 (N/A)
New York Knights 1997–2018* New York City The Castle Pier 40 0 (N/A)
Oneida FC 2011–2012 Cambridge, MA Henry G. Steinbrenner Stadium 0 (N/A)
Philadelphia Fight 1998–2020 Conshohocken, PA (Philadelphia) Garthwaite Stadium 4 (2016)
Rhode Island Rebellion 2011–2017 Providence, RI Marvel Field 0 (N/A)
South Florida Speed 2021 Miami, FL North Dade Optimist Park 0 (N/A)
White Plains Wombats 2016–2020 White Plains, NY Blind Brook Elementary School 0 (N/A)

Premiership winners

Main article: USARL Grand Final

For the first three seasons, the USARL was a single-division competition. In 2014 the teams were split into two conferences and three divisions.

Season Grand Finals
Premiers Score Runners-up
2011 Philadelphia Fight 28–26 New Haven Warriors
2012 Jacksonville Axemen 28–22 Boston 13s
2013 Philadelphia Fight 28–22 Jacksonville Axemen
2014 Philadelphia Fight 30–18 Jacksonville Axemen
2015 Boston 13s 44–12 Atlanta Rhinos
2016 Philadelphia Fight 42–20 Jacksonville Axemen
2017 Atlanta Rhinos 32–18 New York Knights
2018 Jacksonville Axemen 56–16 Brooklyn Kings
2019 Brooklyn Kings 12–6 Jacksonville Axemen
2020 Not held due to COVID-19
2021 Tampa Mayhem 60–10 Delaware Black Foxes
2022[15] Jacksonville Axemen 36–12 Tampa Mayhem
2023 [16] Santa Rosa Dead Pelicans 20–16 Jacksonville Axemen

Winners

Winners Count Years
Philadelphia Fight 4 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016
Jacksonville Axemen 3 2012, 2018, 2022
Brooklyn Kings 1 2019
Boston 13s 1 2015
Atlanta Rhinos 1 2017
Tampa Mayhem 1 2021
Santa Rosa Dead Pelicans 1 2023

Development programs

As part of the 2011 season, a former AMNRL team, the Pittsburgh Sledgehammers, participated as a "developmental team", playing a more limited schedule while developing the club for future seasons.[citation needed]

Representative sides

New England Immortals

The New England Immortals RLFC were founded in 2010 and consisted of the top players from the 3 New England based AMNRL clubs. They played their inaugural match against the Canadian National Team, on July 31, 2010, defeating the Canadians 12–8 in a tightly contested match. After the AMNRL/USARL split in 2011, the Immortals were transferred to the USARL and became the only form of representation for USARL clubs due to the RLIF regulation that USARL-based players could not represent the Tomahawks. The Immortals took to the field for their second match since their inception, and despite putting up a hard fight, they were out classed by the more experienced Marines, losing by a score of 68–12. As of 2014, due to budgetary cuts and restructuring of the USARL competition, the Immortals have not played a match since their loss to the Royal Marines.

USA Pioneers

In 2014, the league established a touring developmental side, the USA Pioneers, to play friendly matches against foreign nations. They completed a two match tour in Jamaica in April 2014, winning their first game against a Jamaican domestic outfit, but fell short to the semi-professional Hurricanes Rugby League whilst still proving to be strong opposition for the Jamaicans.[17] The Pioneers played a friendly against a touring New Zealand Police squad the following August, losing 6–62 against very strong opposition.

Presidents Barbarians

The USARL established another team to play a second match against the New Zealand Police and to 'curtain-raise' the 2014 USARL National Championship between the Philadelphia Fight and the Jacksonville Axemen. This representative consisted of overseas-imports from Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and France; similar to Super League's Exiles. They were beaten by the Kiwis 16–46.

USARL Representative teams
Club Representation Established Match history
New England Immortals New England 2010 W 12–8 Canada Canada July 31, 2010
L 12–68 United Kingdom Royal Marines April 27, 2012
USARL Pioneers Development
(non-internationals)
2013 W 46–26 Jamaica Duhaney Park Red Sharks April 3, 2013
L 30–50 Jamaica Hurricanes Rugby League April 7, 2013
L 6–62 New Zealand New Zealand Blue Thunder August 16, 2013
Presidents Barbarians 'Exiles'
(overseas imports)
2013 L 16–46 New Zealand New Zealand Blue Thunder August 23, 2013
United States NORTH Conference All-Stars North of America 2015 L 20–34 United States SOUTH Conference All-Stars August 29, 2015

L 32–38 United States SOUTH Conference All-Stars October 22, 2016

United States SOUTH Conference All-Stars South of America 2015 W 34–20 United States NORTH Conference All-Stars August 29, 2015

W 38–32 United States NORTH Conference All-Stars October 22, 2016

See also

References

  1. ^ "USARL become members of the rugby league European federation". November 6, 2014.
  2. ^ Mascord, Steve (January 12, 2011). "Discord 2011: Edition 2". rleague.com. Archived from the original on February 22, 2011. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  3. ^ "New Rugby League Competition Announced". rugbymag.com. Rugby Magazine. January 12, 2011. Archived from the original on January 22, 2011. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  4. ^ "Breakaway league launched in the US". code13rugbyleague.com. January 12, 2011. Archived from the original on January 16, 2011. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  5. ^ "Eagles Cease Operations". fairfaxeagles.com. April 12, 2011. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
  6. ^ Mark Reynolds (July 23, 2011). "Providence-based rugby team battles for recognition". The Providence Journal. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
  7. ^ "USARL Constitution, Teams, Entry Qualifications Announced". Philadelphia Fight Rugby News and Press. fightrugby.com. February 18, 2011. Retrieved February 21, 2011.
  8. ^ "USA Rugby League (USARL) Names Peter Illfield Chairman". usarugbyleague.com. USA Rugby League. January 13, 2011. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
  9. ^ "USA Rugby League name a Chairman-the Fight's own Peter Illfield". Philadelphia Fight Rugby News and Press. fightrugby.com. January 13, 2011. Archived from the original on January 16, 2011. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  10. ^ Daniel Andruczyk (August 28, 2011). "It's Hard to Keep a Game of Rugby League Down". rugbyleagueinternationalscores.com. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
  11. ^ Mascord, Steve (March 12, 2014). "American Civil War Wages On". Forty20 Magazine. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
  12. ^ "2014 Season IV schedule is here". www.usarl.com. USA Rugby League. March 16, 2014. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
  13. ^ "USARL | USA Rugby League | American Rugby League « Uncategorized « 4th Annual USARL Annual General Meeting – Sunday February 16, 2014". Archived from the original on February 21, 2014. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  14. ^ "2018 Season Preview at a Glance".
  15. ^ "Jacksonville Wins 2022 USARL Championship". USARL. Retrieved August 21, 2022.
  16. ^ "Santa Rosa Dead Pelicans crowned national men's champions in PCRL first year". Pacific Coast Rugby League. Retrieved February 29, 2024.
  17. ^ "USARL | USA Rugby League | American Rugby League « Uncategorized « Pioneers begin a new era for USA development teams". www.usarl.com. Archived from the original on March 18, 2014.