January 28, 2019 / 5:46 AM / 3 months ago

Rugby: Major League commissioner sees bright future for game in U.S.

(Reuters) - Major League Rugby (MLR) Commissioner Dean Howes says the sport will be more visible than ever in the United States this year as the professional league kicks off its second season.

Featuring eight U.S.-based teams and one from Canada, with three more teams set to join in 2020, the MLR season began this weekend. It will stage 72 regular season games, culminating in a final in July.

Howes said rugby’s lack of popularity in North America was down to limited exposure.

“For Americans the availability of rugby just hasn’t been there,” he told Reuters. “There’s always been an appetite for it, it just hasn’t been on the menu.”

Howes said rugby had all the ingredients that make a sport popular in the United States and that it also translated well on television. CBS Sports Network has signed on to televise 13 matches this season.

Howes, who was previously chief executive of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake, hoped MLR would see similar success to the U.S. soccer league.

“The model is very much the same,” he said.

“We get to follow the model of Major League Soccer and accelerate the things that were successful.”

Like MLS, each rugby team is owned by the league with club operators having a voice on the board of governors.

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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