Although rugby is most popular in New Zealand and parts of England like Wales, the sport in the U.S. is growing rapidly and attracting many new fans

Major League Rugby in the U.S., not to be confused with Rugby Union, is gearing up for its 2021 season and fans are eagerly awaiting another round of intense matchups, even featuring some brand-new teams. The fourth season of the relatively “new” sport in the states is set to take place on March 20th, with 13 organizations who will go head-to-head, gradually eliminating teams from both the Western and Eastern Conferences in preparation for the Championship Finals which will take place the first of August.

As pre-season training is already in full swing, let’s take a look at some of the league’s key teams to keep an eye on as rugby followers prepare for this upcoming season.

Los Angeles Giltinis

The L.A. Giltinis are the league’s newest rugby franchise, having announced their entrance into the MLR earlier this year. They are going to be led under head coach Darren Coleman with an extremely diverse roster featuring both seasoned and rookie playmakers. Giltinis will be California’s second rugby team after the San Diego Legion who made their first appearance in the league over 3 years ago.

With two stateside organizations now representing the sport in an important location, rugby is expected to grow widely in popularity, especially this year. What’s more is that the team will play at the LA Memorial Coliseum, a stadium whose capacity tops 77,000. As a handful of new talent comes to perform in L.A., fan engagement is also expected to rise with more followers following the latest bets on highly anticipated matchups and viewing games in-person as well as with online streaming services. Although fans still have yet to see them perform live, there is undoubtedly much excitement surrounding L.A.’s brand new expansion franchise.

Seattle Seawolves

The reigning champions of the U.S.’s Rugby League, the Seattle Seawolves are one of the league’s most seasoned franchises having existed since the start of its formation in 2017. The Washington-based team is captained under talented powerhouse Riekert Hattingh who is expected to lead the organization to another back-to-back title this year. Head coach Kees Lensing provides the rugby knowledge and playmaking advice the team needs to stay ahead of the competition, but it may be top scorer Brock Staller who is the most influential in bringing home the victory this year. His consistent offensive and defensive abilities have allowed the Seawolves to get this far in the league, as Staller normally makes most of the attempted shots he takes.

Giltinis will play their home games at the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a previous site for the Summer Olympics

Toronto Arrows

The Toronto Arrows have already proved they have what it takes to make their mark on the league post-season, as their finals appearance in 2019 was a solid example of their potential. That’s why this year fans should keep their eyes peeled for the essential Arrows’ playmakers like Sam Malcom, the team’s elite scorer. The Marietta-based team has a roster stacked full of talent from prop Cole Keith to hooker Andrew Quattrin. The Arrows have momentum on their side as they head into the 2021 season with a good chance of securing a Championship title.

Rugby United New York

The Brooklyn-based franchise joined the MLR in the spring of 2018 and has shown an impressive amount of talent within its roster ever since. Rugby United New York has a lot going for them this year as well with new signees as well as extended contracts from key assets including James Rochford, Harry Bennett, and Troy Lockyear.

New York’s upcoming match against their neighboring team, the New England Free Jacks in early April is expected to be one of the biggest games of the season as the two are long-term rivals. Although New England will have the advantage of playing at home, the underdog in this case should not be overlooked.