By Eric Mandel – Digital Producer , Atlanta Business Chronicle
Sep 24, 2018, 5:00am
Atlanta continues to solidify its case as one of the world's most diverse sports markets, as the Big Peach became one of two new member teams for a professional rugby league.
Major League Rugby said it will add Atlanta and Boston when the league begins play in the 2020 season, the third season for the young league.
MLR said the two cities, plus Rugby United New York, which begins league play in 2019, will solidify the the league's presence throughout the East Coast’s largest media markets.
“We are excited to expand the league to Atlanta and Boston, giving millions of rugby fans a front row seat to the action of the game on a professional level,” said Dean Howes, commissioner of MLR, in a news release. “Rugby is the fastest growing sport in America, and with these additions will now be represented in 11 major media markets across the US.”
MLR hosted its first season in 2018 with seven teams — from Austin, Houston, Glendale, New Orleans, San Diego, Seattle and Salt Lake City — and will soon be announcing its 2019 schedule.
Life University in Marietta is one of the country’s top college rugby programs and has produced many current MLR players.
Atlanta’s has seen successful additions in other professional sport leagues beyond the major three — MLB, NFL and NBA. The Major League Soccer team, Atlanta United, has broken most every attendance record since joining the league in 2017 and is currently in first place overall. The Georgia Swarm lacrosse team, meanwhile, last year earned the city's first major professional sports championship in more than 20 years.
The Alliance of American Football said last week that one of the eight teams in its pro football startup kicking off next year will be called the Atlanta Legends, celebrating larger-than-life figures and events that have made their mark on the state.