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David Boyd, Utah Warriors

Utah-based Major League Rugby announces plans for 12-team league, two conferences in 2020

By Sean Walker, | Posted - Apr. 11, 2019 at 4:19 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Big changes are coming to Salt Lake City-based Major League Rugby for the third season.

The league unveiled its plans Thursday for the 2020 season, which include three more teams, a two-conference regular season, and a tiered playoff structure that will feature the top three teams in each season.

The league will add Boston's New England Free Jacks, Washington's Old Glory DC and Atlanta's Rugby ATL to the competition in 2020, bringing the overall numbers of teams to 12, including the founding member Utah Warriors.

"The expansion of Major League Rugby from nine to 12 teams is exciting in every possible way imaginable," said Utah coach Alf Daniels, who leads one of MLR’s founding six clubs. "It shows that the MLR is serious, it’s contagious and it’s here to stay. It is a testament that rugby is growing here in the USA. It’s a privilege to be a part of this great Warriors Club, who are founding members. Together, we are building the Warriors. Way as Utah becomes the epicenter of U.S. rugby."

Match play begins Feb. 15, 2020 with a two-conference setup. Utah will factor into the Western Conference, alongside the Austin Elite, Houston Sabercats, Glendale Raptors, San Diego Legion and Seattle Seawolves. The three new teams will join NOLA Gold, Toronto Arrows and Rugby United New York in the Eastern Conference.

Photo: David Boyd, Utah Warriors

All teams will play a home-and-away series with against in-conference opponents, with a rotating set of home-or-away matches against teams in the other conference. The updated format help alleviate current concerns over travel issues amongst league teams.

The top three teams from each conference will advance to the league’s championship series, with conference champions received a first-round bye and automatic berth in the league semifinals.

"Professional rugby is here to stay in North America," Major League Rugby commissioner Dean Howes said in a statement. "MLR is the first time the North American sports model has been applied to the global game of rugby. That model is now laying the foundations for the long-term success of this league and the sport."

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