With the MLR Draft set for the 18th of August, we wanted to take a deeper look at the use of Collegiate Drafts across the pond and how playing collegiate rugby in North America can lead to a potential professional contract in a growing league.
North American sports draft system
The USA has a strong tradition of recruiting their professional athletes from the collegiate sport system in the form of a draft. Every sport from Basketball, Baseball to American Football and Hockey gather all their professional franchises in one place to make their picks of the best young talent the nation has to offer.
While they all follow a similar format, some leagues have different entry requirements for an athlete declaring for the draft. For example, in Basketball you can declare for the NBA draft from high school, but if you wish to enter the NFL draft you must complete 2 years of college to be in contention.
In keeping with this unique sporting tradition, the newly formed MLR also utilises the draft format for recruiting young talent for their franchises.
The MLR’s initial approach of growing their audience by signing high-profile overseas players nearing the end of their playing careers, like the early days of Major League Soccer, has been fruitful for piquing the curiosity of the already substantial rugby fanbase from European and Southern Hemisphere.
The introduction of the draft is a huge step in raising the profile of rugby within the United States, using the opportunity to showcase homegrown talent, with some picks even progressing to play for the USA Eagles Men’s national team.
Tavite Lopeti was the 3rd overall pick from the 2021 draft and has already achieved his first selection for the Eagles and is hopeful to join the team in the upcoming Rugby World Cup in France next year, meaning the MLR draft can propel you to the very top of world rugby. This format also benefits international US college students looking to get noticed and make the step up to playing at a professional level, with players from Thailand, England and Zimbabwe being selected in the first 15 picks of the 2021 draft.
Major League Rugby career
The MLR draft now represents a serious opportunity for those college rugby players seeking a professional career after they finish their studies at college, and with over 500 US college rugby programs, there’s a lot of opportunity to be seen.
With Major US TV networks CBS and FOX providing a platform for the sport to be viewed by millions. Championship game viewership numbers increased from 600,000 in 2019 to 2 million in 2021.
For the 2022 championship match between the Seattle Seawolves and Rugby New York, the match aired on FOX, televising the game to well over 20 million viewers through its FS1 channel.
This type of exposure can only be beneficial for the future of the MLR in attracting new investors and talent, to ensure that it can only continue to grow.
Given this platform, MLR is predicted to grow exponentially in the coming years and the number of teams entering the league is also expected to grow with several different cities interested in starting their own franchises.
The MLR draft can be an entry point to playing against some of the very best talents in North America in front of an audience of millions.
If you are interested in beginning your US collegiate rugby career and possibly even on to Major League Rugby, please do not hesitate to send in an enquiry!