USA Rugby, Major League Rugby and World Rugby have announced a strategic partnership to launch a new MLR expansion club in Charlotte named Anthem Rugby Carolina that will start play this season with American Legion Memorial Stadium serving as its match day home.
The partnership between the governing bodies for global and American rugby, as well as one of North America’s professional rugby leagues, represents a significant investment in the growth and development of the game in the United States, as future hosts of the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups in 2031 and 2033, respectively.
“Anthem RC provides a truly unique opportunity for accelerated development with USA Rugby High Performance while continuing to bolster MLR as a key pathway for the USA Men’s Eagles,” said Ross Young, USA Rugby chief executive officer. “The level of teamwork that has occurred across all parties to bring this project to life is unprecedented and we’re thrilled to see it on a rugby pitch this year.”
The club’s inaugural roster will feature players from various MLR teams who are eligible to participate on behalf of the United States in international competition. The addition of Anthem RC also brings back the two-conference approach the league has relied on the past few seasons with 12 teams; since the end of its 2023 season, Major League Rugby has had its club in Atlanta relocate to Los Angeles, added another expansion team in Miami for this season and seen operations cease at both the Toronto Arrows and New York Ironworkers.
“The new club is a game changer for American rugby and will create new pathways for player development and grassroots participation, building on the outstanding foundation our teams have forged during the past seven years,” said Nic Benson, chief executive officer of Major League Rugby. “We’re grateful to the leadership of both World Rugby and USA Rugby for their partnership in this endeavor as we work towards our shared goal of a record breaking 2031 Rugby World Cup on U.S. soil. Charlotte is one of the best sports cities in the country, with a passionate fan base for everything from basketball to soccer and we’re thrilled to be able to bring home its first professional rugby franchise.”
MLR and USA Rugby have previously collaborated to support the USA Hawks, an initiative focused on helping young American players and USA-qualified prospects grow as rugby players via a dedicated performance pathway. Anthem RC, through the relationship with World Rugby and USA Rugby, will further support the long-term goals of the USA men’s national team in advance of qualification for Rugby World Cup 2027 and hosting the 2031 event.
“Working with strategic partners in the USA and backed by our Executive Board, we are activating a transformative and long-term growth plan for rugby in the U.S. that will enable a great sporting nation and the sport as a whole, to unlock the true potential of hosting men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups in 2031 and 2033 respectively,” said World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin.