The United States has won its bid to host the Rugby World Cup for the first time: the men’s tournament in 2031 and the women’s in 2033.
World Rugby announced the next round of host countries as ushering in a “golden decade for the sport,” tapping veteran hosts England (women’s World Cup in 2025) and Australia (2027 men’s and 2029 women’s tournaments) in addition to the U.S.
Here are a few things to know about the tournament:
Every four years, qualifying teams (and their fans) from around the world converge in one country for the weeks-long competition for the world title. More than 1.7 million people reportedly attended the last men’s RWC in 2019 in Japan, the first Asian nation to host.
The men’s tournament features 20 teams, split into pools and playing almost 50 games total over seven weeks at venues spread across the host country. The women’s World Cup will have 16 teams playing in a similar format; typically there have been 12 teams, but the sport’s governing body is expanding the tournament (effective in 2025) as part of its efforts to grow the women’s game.
The U.S. Eagles won the first women’s Rugby World Cup in 1991. USA was the runner up at the next two women’s World Cups, and then placed fourth in 2017. No host country has ever won the women’s title, but the U.S. will be looking to change that if the reigning champions, New Zealand, don’t beat them to that distinction when they host later this year (after a delay due to the pandemic).
The American men’s best performance has been winning one game, the last time in 2011’s World Cup.
The world will be watching to see if the U.S. can be competitive and draw the massive crowds that have flocked to World Cups in the rugby strongholds of Europe and the Southern Hemisphere.
For now, there’s ample opportunity for fans to get in on the game in person and prep for the big event. Major League Rugby has men’s teams playing in a dozen U.S. cities. There are semi-pro and amateur adult teams, varsity and club collegiate programs, youth rugby camps, wheelchair rugby and touch (non-tackle) rugby leagues, for starters. USA Rugby lists state contacts.
Amy Morgan is an editor at NPR. She played rugby for 16 years, co-founded rugby teams in two states, and tweets @amymorganedits.