MLR Updates: Semi-Finals This Weekend: What's Happening in Vancouver and Toronto
We're almost to the end of the inaugural MLR season, a second attempt to get professional rugby into the american marketplace. The first attempt fell short with PRO Rugby lasting one season. This effort looks to have more momentum and a second season seems assured. The big question is with which teams.
This season was a modest effort, a 10 week regular season, two semi-finals this weekend in the Denver area (Glendale) and a final in San Diego next weekend. Glendale Raptors, the hosts, and top ranked team will play Utah Warriors while Seattle Seawolves, and their Canadian contingent, will play San Diego. Glendale were undefeated going into the last match but were upset on the road by San Diego, the only team to defeat Glendale this season. The form guide would say Glendale will be clear favourites in their match, at home and with only one defeat. The Seattle v San Diego game will be more of a toss up, San Diego on top form at the present knocking off Glendale while Seattle have been a solid #2 team all season. The home teams have done well this season, only Glendale owns that advantage this weekend.
What about Canadian teams next year? By all accounts Toronto are actively pursuing 2019 and trying to make a deal with MLR while Vancouver looks more likely for 2020. There are two potential backers for a team in Vancouver, the Karl Harrison group who are invested already in the Seattle Seawolves and the BCRU group led by Steve Cook. At the time of writing neither group seems willing or able to invest the approximately $700K needed to buy in for 2019 plus the estimated $2.5M to operate a team through a season. 2020 seems a more realistic goal, giving potential investors more time to see how the league develops, it's a cautious business approach. On the other hand Toronto is led by Bill Webb, a Rugby Canada director, who already has a functioning team, the Ontario Arrows. They played an exhibition season last year and have expressed their plan to play an exhibition season next year if they don't get into the MLR in 2019. Bryan Ray wrote an article on the Toronto bid
to enter MLR in 2019 and it seems very much a work in progress with negotiations still ongoing. There's no details on what points are being negotiated but it's possible Toronto will be looking for financial concessions and offering an expanded MLR market in return. Toronto already has a professional rugby league team that has done well with attendance figures into their second year. So the bottom line for 2019, Vancouver unlikely, Toronto possibly.
There's a Reddit conversation ongoing
if you want more details.
San Diego Legion
MLR League Commissioner, Dean Howes, Interviewed