The United States could potentially host three of the biggest international sporting events in consecutive years beginning in 2026.
The USA officially launched its bid to host the Men’s Rugby World Cup in 2027 or 2031 and the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2029 on Wednesday.
Should the country win the bid for 2027, it would fit in between the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which the U.S. is co-hosting with Canada and Mexico, and the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028.
But USA Rugby World Cup Bid Chair Jim Brown, in a press conference announcing the bids, says that while a bid for 2027 is being prepared, his team has told World Rugby that the preference is to host in 2031.
“Given the extra time, we might want to focus on things like developing the game, developing the market for rugby and really maximizing that potentially longer period of time if we are given that opportunity,” Brown says.
The odds of winning the bid in 2031 appear to be better anyway, since major rugby power Australia is bidding for 2027 and the sport’s showpiece event has not been held in the Southern Hemisphere since 2011 in New Zealand. England hosted in 2015, Japan in 2019 and France will do the honors in 2023.
In answer to a question from Around the Rings, USA Rugby chief executive Ross Young, a former Rugby World Cup general manager, expounded on where the issue of 2027 or 2031 stands at the moment.
“I know World Rugby are having a number of internal discussions between all of the interested bidding parties and they’re going to present that progress report at Council meetings late in November and we’re all really sitting to wait what the outcomes of those meetings are about how we focus on the last phase of this process, if you like, between those Council meetings in November and the awarding announcements in the May meetings.”
The planning and preparation phase continues ahead of World Rugby’s January 2022 deadline to submit the bid proposals before the final decisions are made by the federation for the next four World Cups, including the 2025 women’s tournament, in May 2022.
This is the first time a country has bid on both the Men’s and Women’s Rugby World Cups together and if the bid is successful, will mark the first time a Men’s Rugby World Cup has been held in North or South America. Canada hosted the women’s tournament in 2006.
Should the U.S. win the right to host the men’s event in either 2027 or 2031 and the women’s in 2029, the plan is to combine them.
“The idea is to couple those two events together if we are given the opportunity to host both and run them as one organization which obviously would have some synergies of revenue and cost sharing which I think provides an interesting package to World Rugby as they approach their decisions,” Brown says.
He says there are currently 28 cities interested in hosting games for the men’s tournament and 24 for the women’s.
The current plan calls for all the games for the Men’s World Cup to be held in stadiums with at least a 50,000 seat capacity. Many of these would be stadiums whose primary tenants are National Football League teams. Despite the fact that the traditional September through November window for Rugby World Cups comes during the NFL and college football seasons, the stadium owners have made a limited number of weekends available for hosting games.
Some of these same stadiums are also bidding to host matches for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Both soccer and rugby require a wider field of play than American football, so those stadiums which are already in the mix for 2026 are currently working on the changes needed to ensure the proper field size.
A projected 3.1 million fans could attend Men’s Rugby World Cup events in the U.S. across 48 matches.
The Women’s World Cup would have up to eight games played in stadiums with a capacity of 50,000 or more. The remaining fixtures would be played at smaller stadiums such as those used by Major League Soccer teams.
The bid’s leadership team is in Washington, D.C. this week, meeting with White House officials and leaders of the Congressional Rugby Caucus among others. It’s part of the process of engaging with various levels of government to get the necessary requirements needed by World Rugby for the proposal to be completed.
Brown says as of right now “generally, we feel like we’re probably ahead of schedule in terms of what we’re due to deliver by January.”