SPUSA 20 years

US College Sports on the Rise: Rugby and Triathlon

When most people think of college sports, football, basketball, and baseball are among the first to come to mind. Understandably so, given that these are among the biggest revenue generating college sports that attract audiences almost as large as major professional leagues. However, the fastest-growing college sports, for which opportunities are increasing exponentially, would take many people by surprise. Below we take a closer look at two of the emerging sports that are taking the collegiate system by storm.

Men’s and Women’s Rugby

It comes as no surprise that Australian rugby players, both male and female, are among the highest sought after college rugby recruits in the world. The prevalence of rugby in Australia at the junior/high school level gives Australian recruits a tremendous head start over their American counterparts. Paired with an increasing number of colleges establishing rugby programs, there has never been a more ideal time to consider playing college rugby in the USA. In fact, there are now more than 900 US college rugby teams (male and female), although not all are currently scholarship offering varsity programs. On the men’s side, college rugby is not an NCAA sanctioned sport, so athletes do not need to meet the stringent eligibility requirements that those in other sports do. However, the NCAA currently governs 27 varsity rugby programs on the women’s side.

In a further sign that rugby is one of the fastest growing college sports, 2020 marked the first year in history that a Major League Rugby Collegiate Draft took place – a great opportunity for college players with professional aspirations. With a successful US bid to host the 2031 and 2033 men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup tournaments, there is no doubt that college rugby will continue to grow on a very lofty trajectory in the decade to come.

Women’s Triathlon

Women’s triathlon was designated an emerging sport by the NCAA in 2014. In early 2022, it became the latest college sport to meet the benchmark requirements for full NCAA status: a minimum of 40 varsity college teams. In recent years, USA Triathlon has committed $3.5 million to assist these college programs get up and running. Soon to become a fully-fledged NCAA championship sport, funding for triathlon programs is only set to increase. With the number of college programs and scholarships growing each year, college triathlon coaches proactively contact Study & Play USA seeking Australian athletes to recruit. With a dominant history of success at the Olympic Games and World Championships, Australian triathletes are among the most attractive. As scholarship opportunities continue to grow, the collegiate system is primed to attract the best young female triathletes from around the world in the coming years. If you are a female triathlete looking to make the transition from junior to U23 level, there has never been a better time to consider the college pathway.

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An Aussie's Transformative
US College Journey

By Study & Play Director, Chris Bates