In the United States, there are four major professional sports leagues. The NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL are the kings of American sports. College sports provide some overlap in major sports coverage, especially in football and basketball. With the rise of soccer, it seems that the MLS may some day join the ranks of the big four, but that day is still beyond the horizon.
If the NFL has its way, the next big sport in the United States could be rugby, not soccer.
Tom Dart of The Guardian reports that the NFL may be interested in televising rugby matches on the NFL Network to help fill the offseason void that naturally occurs with 24/7 football coverage.
Premier Rugby Limited and the NFL are engaged in efforts to try to bring professional rugby to the United States. The plan involves hosting a match between the London Irish and a "U.S. Barbarian" style team that would combine young talent with international stars. If the event, which will be hosted at Gillette Stadium, is successful, plans to establish a small east coast league in the United States could be pushed forward.
The NFL could benefit from year-round physical sports. The NFL is likely the most violent major sport in the United States with professional hockey coming in second place. If there was a successful summer league that incorporated a similar level of physicality, it may satisfy NFL fans through the summer monthes as well as driving rugby fans to the NFL.
Whether the carrying capacity of the United States is already full is also yet to be seen. With four major sports leagues, in addition to NCAA college sports, it's hard to imagine a new league, especially a rugby league, being highly successful, but the NFL likes to be on the forefront of money-making ventures, and there's a chance that someday, it could pay off in a big way for the NFL.
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As an American Football fan, I really really want rugby to find its way into the mainstream here. I know almost nothing about it, but every time I've seen it, I've enjoyed it. If they actually get it on TV here, I know I'm tuning in.
Hockey is big in the CANADA and a select part of the United States. Soccer is definitely on equal footing now with Hockey. MLS higher attendance than NHL. When Rugby actually has a pro league in the US or Americans can tell me the difference between rugby union and rugby league, then you can say the sport will be big.