Any bid made by England to host the men’s Rugby World Cup in 2031 is likely to face competition from a super-sized USA proposal that aims to sell out NFL stadiums with the aim of housing 50,000 fans at every match.
USA formally launched its bid to host both the men’s World Cup in 2027 or 2031, as well as the women’s tournament in 2029, on Wednesday in Washington. If successful, the feat would mark the first time that a Rugby World Cup has been held in North or South America.
A total of 28 cities, including Vancouver in Canada, have expressed interest in holding fixtures across both tournaments and NFL franchises such as the San Francisco 49ers, the New England Patriots and the New York Giants are also backing the bid, which has been funded and resourced by private investment.
With Australia seemingly in pole position to host the men’s World Cup in 2027, it is the USA’s preference to bid for the men’s tournament in 2031. Just last month, RFU chairman Tom Ilube confirmed that England would also be keen to host the tournament that year.
But the prospect of using – and filling – NFL venues such as the 82,500-capacity MetLife Stadium in New York would tie together a formidable package for both a men’s tournament in the USA in 2031 and a women’s tournament two years earlier.
“The idea is that we have at least 50,000 spectators, if not more, at all 48 games [of the men’s tournament],” said Jim Brown, the chair of the USA bid.
“We expect to fill those stadiums. There is an opportunity to use a 35,000-seater stadium in San Diego, so we could make an exception there. But we feel confident that the large NFL-college stadiums would be the model for all the World Cup games.”
“The idea for the women’s [tournament] in 2029 is to use large stadiums for four to six, maybe up to eight games depending on interest and movement on tickets. Of the 32 games for that event, we would expect 24 to be staged at MLS [Major League Soccer] stadiums.
“It would be a little more tapered back but we would still be aggressive and bullish in being able to sell out large NFL stadiums for big games – the opening game, the final, semi-finals.”
Although Brown declared himself confident that the USA could host the men’s Rugby World Cup in its traditional window between September and October, he acknowledged that a move to “late, late summer” would avoid clashes with the NFL and college football seasons.
“Another benefit of focusing on 2029 and 2031 and giving us a longer runway can enable us to be more innovative in certain aspects of how and what we can deliver,” said Ross Young, the chief executive of USA Rugby.
“I think further with exploration of the opportunity, the tweaking of the window is another up-side to having a longer runway to get into that detail,” he added.
World Rugby’s deadline for official proposals is in January 2022.