[CHICAGO, IL] – After weeks of analysis and discussion, the Midwest Rugby Union Competition Committee, lead by Vice President of Competition Lou Raymond, has released a realignment plan for both Men and Women’s League Competition for the upcoming 2022-23 Competitive Cycle. Originally planning to only update the men’s competition, feedback from the Annual General Meeting in February resulted in further analysis of the women’s competition as well.
The last large-scale realignment to MWRU Competition occurred in 2013 with the goal of fostering more consistent competition across the Union and to provide Member Clubs with a better opportunity to be successful in USA Rugby National Club Playoffs. At the time, there was some discontent with the realignment, but as time passed the result met it’s intended goal. While most of the adjustments have proved beneficial, there have been some divisions that have fallen from their original design over the course of time spurring a re-examination of the competition once again.
Men’s D1 Competition (Midwest Premiership)
In 2021, Scioto Valley/ Columbus Rugby Club forfeited two (2) League Matches. Even while considering the impact for the COVID-19 Pandemic, Columbus determined and expressed an inability to continue competing at the D1 level for the time being. Therefore, Columbus will be moved into D2 Competition for the 2022-23 Competitive Cycle. The team best suited to promote into D1 Competition and replace Columbus as the twelfth team in the Midwest Premiership is the Cleveland Crusaders. The Crusaders have won the Midwest D2 Championship two of the past three seasons, including most recently in November 2021.
Eastern Conference – Chicago Lions, CRC Griffins, Cincinnati Wolfhounds, Cleveland Crusaders, Detroit Tradesmen, Pittsburgh Forge
Western Conference – Kansas City Blues, Metropolis Rugby, Milwaukee Barbarians, Palmer College Dragons, St. Louis Bombers, Wisconsin Rugby
With the retention of twelve (12) teams in the Midwest Premiership, the Competition will remain split into two (2) conferences: East and West. Each team will play home and away against the other five (5) teams in their conference for a total of ten (10) league matches beginning on Saturday, August 27th and concluding on Saturday, November 5th. All teams will observe the union-wide bye week on Saturday, October 1st. The winner of each conference will play each other at the Midwest Championship on Saturday, November 12th.
Women’s D1 Competition
For the past several cycles, the Women’s D1 Competition has suffered from a lack of geographic density and consistency in teams. Last year, to increase density in the competition (particularly in the Eastern Conference) while rewarding consistently high performing D2 sides, the Union was able to create a Hybrid D1/D2 League in the Eastern Conference. This structure provided the Detroit Women a more reasonable travel schedule while easing Buffalo, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Pittsburgh into D1 Competition.
After the Hybrid League proved to be widely successful, the Competition Committee is expanding it’s use to the Western Conference which will switch from strictly a D1 Competition to the Hybrid-format employed in the Eastern Conference. With the hybrid-format in play, consistently high-performing D2 sides in the Western Conference will be added to again add density and ease those clubs into higher-level competition. The two (2) clubs added to this competition for 2022-23 will be the Palmer College Women and Milwaukee Scylla.
The competition will be split into two Conferences/ Leagues. In the East, each team will play the other once traveling to opponents opposite of 2021. This will result in four (4) league matches. In the West, each team will play once for a total of five (5) league matches. This will result in an uneven home and away schedule from the teams, which should be switched the following year. League Competition must conclude by the weekend of October 15th with all teams observing the union-wide bye week on Saturday, October 1st.
Eastern Conference – Buffalo, Cincinnati Kelts, Columbus, Detroit, Pittsburgh Forge
Western Conference – Chicago Lions, Chicago Women, Metropolis Valkyries, Milwaukee Scylla, Palmer College Women, Wisconsin
For playoffs, the top two (2) teams from each League/ Conference will earn births to the D1 Playoff Pathway. The first seed from the East will host the second seed from the West and the first seed from the West will host the second seed from the East in the Semifinal Round on November 5th. The winners of those matches will play one another in the Midwest Championship on November 12th.
All remaining teams, the 3rd – 5th seeds from the East and the 3rd – 6th seeds from the West, will earn bids in the D2 Playoff Pathway. More information on how these seeds will compete will be detailed below in the Women’s D2 Competition explanation.
Men’s D2 Competition
This competition has lost several teams through attrition in the form of club mergers, relegation, and promotion. The current state of Men’s D2 is that it has far fewer teams than what’s practical and in some cases has become more of a D1A Competition than a true competition in between D1 and D3. The limited number of teams combined with the extensive travel makes it a difficult proposition for high-performing D3 teams to make the competitive jump to D2.
With that being said, Men’s D3 has had several of the same teams performing well year in and year out. This has created a competitive imbalance in several leagues resulting in a lack of competitive balance. To solve several problems – density, competitive imbalance, etc., the Competition Committee has approved the promotion of seven (7) consistently high-performing D3 teams into D2 for the 2022-23 Competitive Cycle. They are as follows: Akron Rugby Club, Bremer County Bucks, Queen City Rugby, Fort Wayne Rugby, Fox Valley Māori, Grand Rapids Gazelles, and the St. Paul Jazz Pigs.
With these promotions and the swapping of Cleveland with Columbus, Men’s D2 will consist of a more manageable twenty (20) teams. The teams will be split into four (4) leagues comprised of five (5) teams each. Two (2) leagues will play in the Eastern Conference and two (2) in the Western Conference. Each team will play the other teams within their League home and away for a total of eight (8) league matches. These matches will begin on Saturday, August 27th and conclude on Saturday, October 22nd. All teams will observe the union-wide bye week on Saturday, October 1st.
Eastern Conference League “A” – Akron Rugby, Indianapolis Impalas, Pittsburgh Forge (D2), Queen City Rugby, Columbus Rugby
Eastern Conference League “B” – Chicago Blaze, Chicago Lions (D2), CRC Westside Condors, Grand Rapids Gazelles, Fort Wayne Rugby
Western Conference League “A” – Bremer County Bucks, Des Moines Rugby, Eastside Banshees, Metropolis Rugby (D2), St. Paul Jazz Pigs
Western Conference League “B” – Fox Valley Maori, Green Bay Celtics, Lincoln Park Rugby, Milwaukee Rugby, South Side Irish
With the increase in teams and uniformity of leagues, the Union can expand Men’s D2 Playoffs to eight (8) teams. Playoffs will begin at the Quarterfinal Round on Saturday, October 29th with each League winner hosting the second-place team from the opposite League within their Conference. The winners will play one another in the Semifinals (Conference Finals) on November 5th with those subsequent Conference Champions playing each other at the Midwest Championship on November 12th.
Women’s D2 Competition
With the promotion/ movement of several high-performing D2 clubs into hybrid leagues, Women’s D2 has shrunk in size to a manageable thirteen (13) teams. The Union hopes to add to this competition in the next few years as several new women’s clubs are currently developing around the MWRU. For now, the Competition Committee has split Women’s D2 into three (3) leagues with reasonable travel for all the sides.
The Eastern and Central Leagues will consist of four (4) teams who will play one another home and away for a total of six (6) league matches. The Western League will play each other team once for total of four (4) league matches. All matches will begin on or after Saturday, August 27th and conclude by Saturday, October 15th while observing the union-wide bye week on Saturday, October 1st.
Eastern League – Akron Women, Cleveland Iron Maidens, North Buffalo Ninjas, South Buffalo Women
Central League – Dayton Area Women, Fort Wayne Women, Grand Rapids Women, Lexington Black Widows
Western League – Chicago Sirens, County Will Morrigans, Minneapolis Menagerie, Oconomowoc Women, Twin-Cities Amazons
The third and fourth seeds from the Women’s D1/D2 Hybrid Leagues will earn an automatic bid into the Semifinal Round of the D2 Playoffs of October 29th. The weekend before, on October 22nd, the fifth and sixth (Western only) seeds from the hybrid leagues will play the three (3) league winners and two (2) Wildcards from the conventional D2 Competition in the Play-In Round. See the below bracket for a visual representation. Wildcard Seeds will be determined based upon the Union’s updated inter-league tiebreaking parameters. The winners of the Quarterfinal matchups will play one another in the Semifinals on November 5th with the Conference Champions then facing one another at the Midwest Championship on November 12th.
It should be noted that for the 2022-23 Competitive Cycle that the Women’s Bowl Competition has been suspended. All teams that do not earn berths to either the D1 or D2 Playoff Pathways are strongly encouraged to schedule friendly matches with other clubs to fill out the remainder October.
Men’s Division 3 Competition
With the promotion of several high-performing teams to D2 and with uncertainty remaining in much of the Men’s D4 Competition, the Competition Committee has restructured Men’s D3 Competition into eight (8) leagues across the Eastern and Western Conferences. In the East, all leagues will consist of six (6) teams playing a conventional (non-hybrid) competition of five (5) league matches. This will result in uneven scheduling from a home and away perspective which should be remedied the following Competitive Cycle.
In the West, the CARFU and Wisconsin Leagues will consist of seven (7) teams playing each other in conventional competition once for a total of six (6) league matches. The Iowa Hybrid League will consist of six (6) D3 teams and two (2) D4 teams playing each other once for a total of seven (7) league matches. The Minnesota League will consist of four (4) D3 teams and three (3) D4 teams playing each other once for a total of six (6) league matches. All matches will begin on or after Saturday, August 27th and conclude by Saturday, October 15th while observing the union-wide bye week on Saturday, October 1st.
(E) Eastern League – Cleveland Crusaders (D3), Cleveland Rovers, Greensburg Maulers, Pittsburgh Forge (D3), Presque Isle Scallywags, South Pittsburgh Hooligans
(E) Southern League – Dayton Flying Pigs, Louisville Rugby, Cincinnati Kelts, Lexington Blackstones, White River Rugby, Columbus Rugby (IN)
(E) Central League – Detroit Tradesmen (D3), Detroit Rugby Club, Toledo Celtics, Columbus Castaways, Findlay Scars, Fort Wayne Rugby (D3)
(E) Northern League – Michigan Rugby, Tri-Cities Barbarians, Kalamazoo Dogs, Traverse Bay Blues, Michiana Moose, Capital Area Crisis
(W) CARFU League – Peoria Pigs, Chicago Blaze (D3), Chicago Riot, Rockford Ravens, Northwest Indiana Reapers, Northwest Woodsmen, Lake County RFC
(W) Iowa League – Northeast Iowa Barbarians, West Des Moines Wombats, Quad City Irish, Clinton Muddy River, Iowa City Ducks, Ceder Rapids Headhunters, Iowa Falls Rugby (D4), River City Rugby (D4)
(W) Minnesota League – St. Cloud Bottom Feeds, Eastside Banshees (D3), Sioux Falls Crow, Rochester Rogues, Red River Ruffians (D4), Mankato Marauders (D4), La Crosse Rugby (D4)
(W) Wisconsin League – Oshkosh Rugby, Oconomowoc Rugby, Wisconsin Rugby (D3), Fox Cities Gargoyles, Green Bay Celtics (D3), Milwaukee Barbarians (D3), Milwaukee Black & Blue
Due to the uniformity created by the realignment, the Competition Committee will expand the Men’s D3 Playoffs to sixteen (16) teams. The top two (2) sides from each league will earn a bid to the D3 Playoff Pathway.
The Round of 16 will be held on October 22nd with the various league second seeds (#2) traveling to a predetermined league top seeds (#1). See the table below. The following weekend, October 29th, the winners will face one another in the Quarterfinals hosted by a predetermined League on a rotating basis, unless both winners are from the same League, in which case the higher-seed would host. The winners of that weekend would play one another in the Semifinals (Conference Championships) on November 5th at predetermined locations within the Union. Those winners would intern play one another at the Midwest Championship on November 12th.
Men’s Division 4 Competition
Men’s Division 4 has suffered from a lack of consistency from teams. This has caused some teams to seek out competition at the expense of long-distance travel. This travel, in turn, has hurt some teams seeing their home games get an undue number of forfeits. The goal of Division 4 should be to allow teams to develop without the rigors required at higher divisions. The impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic is especially noticeable in the number of teams that competed in 2021. There were fourteen (14) teams that participated in 2019 that did not compete in 2021.
At this time, there appears to be four (4) D4 Leagues that can be counted upon at this time – the Hybrid D3/D4 Leagues in Iowa and Minnesota and the conventional leagues in CARFU and “Buckeye”. There is the possibility of a “Northern” League to be developed in Michigan, however the viability of this league won’t be known until after the spring. With those factors in play, the finalized league play and playoff structures for Men’s D4 likely won’t be formalized until the summer of 2022.
Women’s “Festival” Competition
Recently, we’ve seen a tremendous growth in new senior women’s clubs across the Union. While many of these teams aren’t quite ready to jump into the rigors of structured League Play, the Union does want to assist these teams in developing by providing viable competition. The Union is currently planning regional tournament or festival-like competitions that will allow these teams to maximize playing time with limited travel and other barriers that can hinder the growth of their teams. More information on this competition will also be available after the spring season has concluded.
Questions regarding League or Playoff Structures should be directed to the appropriate Division Coordinator or League Manager. You can find them here.