Large Chicago Attendance Might Help U.S. RWC Bid

Posted: June 18, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Thanks to their win over Ghana many pundits now think the U.S. soccer team has a great chance to advance out of their pool at the FIFA World Cup. Yes they have to play Portugal next but by now most think that outside of Ronaldo and a few players the U.S. has just as much talent as Portugal. Flash back 20 years to when the U.S. hosted the World Cup in 1994 and no one would have ever suggested that the U.S. be favored against Portugal. Hosting the tournament in 1994 did marvels for soccer in the States as it helped bring the game to younger fans, exposed U.S. players to European teams, and helped establish a pro league.

We written before about what hosting the Rugby World Cup would similarly do for rugby in America. It’s not reasonable to expect the same results as soccer but there is no doubt that hosting the World Cup would help bring rugby to the forefront of the American public at least for a set period.

The U.S. is going to face tough competition to host either the 2023 or 2027 World Cup from the likes of Ireland and Argentina. On the surface it shouldn’t be any question. The U.S. has the infrastructure to host a world event with ease, they have terrific venues, and they bring a media and monetary presence that no other country than provide. But the U.S., U.S.A. Rugby in particular, lacks the trust that they can run a major event. They have yet to fill a major stadium in the country and they are consistently reliant on IRB grants.

Slowly U.S.A. Rugby has been working to reverse that reputation. They hosted the most successful Junior World Rugby Trophy to date and they have had crowds of 20,000 or close to it four times in the last several years. Most importantly to their image is the upcoming match between the U.S. and New Zealand in Chicago. Reportedly half the seats in the stadium were sold on the first day tickets were available to the general public. This did include a pre-sale to certain fans but it definitely is encouraging.

Hosting the All Blacks successfully will do several things to help their chances of hosting a World Cup. First, it shows that people in the United States will turn out to see top-level rugby. Any fears that a final might not draw 50,000 people can probably be erased. Even lower-level match in 20,000 seat stadiums are probably assured fans, especially those involving Canada.

Second, it shows that U.S.A. Rugby can manage a large event. Thankfully U.S.A. Rugby has not chosen to promote and run the event themselves but have instead brought in a independent company. Whether that was a requirement of AIG the main sponsor is likely but it’s a smart move. If they can do something similar with a World Cup company than the tournament should be in good hands. Also, working with AIG shows that people are interested in the game in the States and are willing to sponsor big events.

Lastly, the match should bring in a nice payday to the Eagles. The All Blacks are guaranteed a million dollars for appearing but AIG are assumed to be covering most of that. All told the Eagles could make enough money to where they are no longer as reliant on IRB grants. Having a team that is self-sustainable is key to showing the IRB that any legacy from the World Cup will be long lasting.

If the All Blacks match can come off well and then the U.S. win the rights to host the next 7s World Cup, it could finally erase any doubts of their hosting ability. From an IRB point of view it makes sense to try to tap into the richest market in the world once they have proven they can handle it.

Curtis Reed is the founder and editor of This Is American Rugby. He can be found on Twitter @ThisIsAmerRugby, on Facebook, and at www.thisisamericanrugby.com

  • Robb

    Good article. How good do you think the TV ratings have to be to strengthen the case? Since it is going to be on terrestrial tv (NBC) I would hope they would be a lot better than the best NBCsports ratings.
    FIFA stipulated the creation of a domestic league here in the US. Do you think the IRB would do that too? I think having MLS has sustained and grown interest of soccer here. Having a one off event and not building on it would be a mistake.