[CHICAGO, IL] – Following the announcement of the Union-wide realignment, the Midwest Rugby Union has released Fall 2022 Competition Schedules for all Divisions and Leagues. While all Leagues not sort out as nicely as the Union had hoped when realigning, the Union was able to take massive steps in creating parity and competitive balance between Divisions and Leagues while also expanding and organizing playoff pathways.
MIDWEST PREMIERSHIP – MEN’S DIVISION 1
In the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Rugby Club were relegated to Division 2 and replaced with perennial D2 high performer, the Cleveland Crusaders. The Crusaders have won the Midwest D2 Division twice in the last 3 seasons and will join the Chicago Lions, the 2021 Champion Chicago Griffins, the Cincinnati Wolfhounds, the Detroit Tradesmen, and the Pittsburgh Forge. As in previous years, all six (6) sides will play one another in a home and away series for a total of ten (10) league matches.
All Clubs will begin competition on Saturday, August 27th and enjoy a bye week on Saturday, October 1st. The team at the top of the table after competition concludes on Saturday, November 5th will compete against the Western Conference Champion at the Midwest Championships in Chicago on Saturday, November 12th.
In the Western Conference, the Milwaukee Barbarians have chosen to self-relegate to Division 2 and have been removed from the Division. Without a suitable replacement, the Union has decided to move forward with five (5) teams in the Premiership’s Western Conference. The Kansas City Blues, Metropolis Rugby Club, Palmer College, St. Louis Bombers, and Wisconsin Rugby Club will all play one another in a home and away series for a total of eight (8) league matches.
Competition will conclude on Saturday, October 29th and the top two teams in the League will play a third time in a Semifinal contest to determine who faces the Eastern Conference Champion at the Midwest Championship in Chicago on November 12th.
WOMEN’S DIVISION 1
After the success in 2021 of the Women’s Eastern Conference Hybrid League, the Midwest decided to implement the same structure in the Western Conference while rewarding two (2) perennial high performing Division 2 Clubs, Palmer College Women and Milwaukee Scylla, with a chance to compete at a higher level. Both Palmer and Milwaukee have a wealth of experience winning the Midwest D2 Division and making waves at the Club National Playoffs. For 2022, they will join the Chicago Lions, Chicago Women’s Rugby, the Metropolis Valkyries, and the Wisconsin Women in a six-team league. Each Club will play the other in the League once for a total of five (5) league matches. Competition will begin on August 27th and conclude on October 15th with all teams receiving bye weekends on September 3rd and October 1st.
The Eastern Conference will remain the same as 2021 with Buffalo, the Cincinnati Kelts, Columbus Women, Detroit Women, and the Pittsburgh Forge competing against one another. They will play each other once over the course of several weeks from August 27th through October 15th enjoying bye weekends on September 3rd and October 1st.
At the conclusion of League Play on October 15th, the top two teams from both the Eastern and the Western Conferences will play a crossover Semifinal with the #2 seed of one conference traveling to the #1 seed of the opposite conference on Saturday, November 5th. The winner of those two Semifinal matches will play against one another on Saturday, November 12th at the Midwest Championship in Chicago. All other Hybrid League sides will earn bids to the Women’s Division 2 playoffs.
MEN’S DIVISION 2
This Division has seen the most change in the realignment, with two (2) sides coming down from Division 1 and several teams coming up from Division 3. The goal was to create geographically and competitively balanced Leagues to help this Division thrive. All four (4) Leagues will begin competition on Saturday, August 27 and conclude play on Saturday, October 29th and have staggering bye weekends.
In the Eastern Conference, the “Eastern League” is comprised of Midwest D3 Champion Akron Rugby Club, former Premiership side Columbus Rugby Club, the Indianapolis Impalas, the second side of the Pittsburgh Forge and perennial D3 high performer Queen City. This League will offer one of the best mixes in Division 2 with teams from multiple divisions melting in.
The second Eastern Conference League, the “Central League”, will feature the Chicago Blaze, the second sides for both the Chicago Lions and the Chicago Rugby Club (Westside Condors) and newcomers from Division 3, Fort Wayne Rugby and the Grand Rapids Gazelles. Both Fort Wayne and Grand Rapids have been frequent D3 National Championship contenders for several years.
In the Western Conference, the “Northern League” will feature two addition perennial Division 3 powerhouses, the Bremer County Bucks and St. Paul Jazz Pigs. They will join Des Moines Rugby, the Eastside Banshees and Metropolis Rugby Club’s second side.
The “Great Lakes League” will feature six (6) teams with the addition of Milwaukee Barbarians, but only the other five (5) can earn a pathway to playoffs. Milwaukee will join Division 3 call-up Fox Valley Māori, last year’s Division 2 runner-up, the Green Bay Celtics, along with Lincoln Park Rugby, the Milwaukee Rugby Club and the South Side Irish. With six teams, this will be the only League that doesn’t play a home and away series with all the other teams within their League. The Great Lakes Clubs will play home and away with only some of the teams within the League and then either home or away with the other sides in the League.
*It should be noted that when the Midwest originally announced the realignment plan, it was intended to expand Men’s Division 2 Playoffs to eight (8) teams, effectively adding a Quarterfinal Round. While building the schedules it was discovered that with Leagues of five teams, each playing 8 games and one team being on a bye on any given week, the season could only be completed in ten weeks. This eliminated the ability to have schedules end in time to play Quarterfinals. The Competition Committee will review this again in 2023.
On November 5th, the winners of each League will play in the Midwest Semifinals within their Conference. The Eastern and Central Leagues will compete while the Northern and Great Lakes Leagues will compete. These matches will be hosted by the higher seed based upon the Union’s updated Rules of Competition. Winners for the Semifinals will then play one another at the Midwest Championship in Chicago on November 12th.
WOMEN’S DIVISION 2
Women’s Division 2 has also seen several updates with the new realignment. The Union has created three (3) Leagues across the entire footprint – East, Central, and West.
The “Eastern League” is comprised of Akron, the Cleveland Iron Maidens, the North Buffalo Ninjas, and South Buffalo. These sides will play each other twice, home and away, for a total of six (6) league matches starting on September 3rd and ending on October 15th. The entire League will have a bye week on Saturday, October 1st.
The “Central League” will operate much like the Eastern League with four (4) sides – Dayton, Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids, and Lexington playing each other home and away for six (6) league matches starting on September 3rd and ending on October 15th. However, no all teams will have a bye on October 1st.
The “Western League” will feature five (5) sides playing each other only once for a total of four (4) league matches. This Competition will start on September 10th and end on October 15th with teams having staggered bye weeks.
The Women’s Division 2 Playoff Structure is robust, featuring seven (7) sides from the Hybrid Competition and five (5) sides from the traditional Women’s D2 Competition. All the teams from the Hybrid Competition will earn bids to Women’s D2 playoff pathway. Both the #3 and #4 seeds from the Eastern and Western Conferences will have automatic bids to the Quarterfinal round on October 29th. The #5 seed from the Eastern Conference and the #5 and #6 seeds from the Western Conference will compete in the Midwest Play-In Round on October 22nd. They will be hosted by the winner from the three (3) D2 Women’s Leagues as well as two (2) additional “Wild Card” sides. The Wild Cards will be determined by the Union’s updated Rules of Competition.
MEN’S DIVISION 3
The Union’s largest competition, Men’s Division3, will now feature eight (8) Leagues split between two (2) Conferences. Given this, playoffs have been expanded to sixteen (16) teams and changes in the Rules of Competition will eliminate poor sportsmanship in an effort to host playoff matches or rounds.
In the Eastern Conference, the “Eastern League” will remain largely the same aside from the promotion of Akron Rugby Club to Division 2. The second side of the Cleveland Crusaders and the third side of the Pittsburgh Forge will join the Cleveland Rovers, Greensburg Rugby Club, the Presque Isle Scallywags, and the South Pittsburgh Hooligans. All sides will compete against one another once for a total of five (5) league matches. The competition will begin on August 27th and conclude on October 8th.
The “Southern League” will remain intact with the exceptions of Queen City’s promotion to Division 2 and the Columbus Castaways moving to Central League. Remaining in the South will be the Cincinnati Kelts, Columbus Rugby Club (IN), Dayton Area, the Lexington Blackstones, Louisville Rugby, and White River Rugby. Each Club will play each other once for a total of five (5) league matches beginning on August 27th and concluding on October 15th.
The newly created “Central League” will feature the Columbus Castaways with Detroit Rugby Club, the second side of the Detroit Tradesmen, newly promoted Findlay Scars, the second side of Fort Wayne and the Toledo Celtics. These Clubs will face each other once for a total of five (5) league matches beginning on September 3rd and concluding on October 15th.
Finally, the “Northern League” will be home for the Capital Area Crisis, the Kalamazoo Dogs, the Michiana Moose, Michigan Rugby Club, Traverse Bay Blues, and the Tri-Cities Barbarians. These Clubs will also play each other once for a total of five (5) league matches beginning on August 27th and concluding on October 15th.
In the Western Conference, the “CARFU League” will feature the second side of the Chicago Blaze, the Chicago Riot, Lake County, Northwest Indiana, the Northwest Woodsmen, the Peoria Pigs, and the Rockford Ravens. These sides will play each other once for a total of six (6) leagues matches beginning on August 27th and concluding on October 15th.
The “Iowa League” will also feature seven (7) sides playing six (6) league matches from August 27th until October 15th. Cedar Rapids, Clinton Muddy River, the Iowa City Ducks, Northeast Iowa, Quad City Irish and the West Des Moines Wombats will be joined by new club, Dubuque, for the 2022 season.
The “Wisconsin League” will see the least amount of change for the 2022 season. The Fox Cities Gargoyles, Oconomowoc Rugby, Oshkosh, and Milwaukee Black & Blue will compete against the second sides of the Milwaukee Barbarians, Green Bay Celtics, and Wisconsin Rugby Club. Due to their self-relegation, the Barbarian’s second side will also be eligible for playoffs in 2022. These Clubs will play each other once for a total of six (6) league matches beginning on August 20th and concluding on October 15th.
The final league in Men’s Division 3, the “Minnesota League” has shrunken to four (4) sides this fall playing each other home and away for a total of six (6) league matches. The remaining Clubs are the Rochester Rogues, the St. Cloud Bottom Feeders and the Sioux Falls Crowe who will also compete against the second side of the Eastside Banshees. Competition in this League will begin on September 3rd and conclude on October 15th.
The top two teams from each League will enter the Division 3 Playoffs with the #2 seed from each League traveling to the #1 seed of their nearest League during the Play-In Round on October 22nd. The winners of these matches will compete in the Midwest Quarterfinals on October 29th at previously determined host locations that will rotate each year. From here, the winners will compete in the Midwest Semifinals/ Conference Championships at a neutral venue on November 5th before those winners travel to the Midwest Championship in Chicago on November 12th.
MEN’S DIVISION 4
This competition will feature a total for four (4) Leagues split between the two (2) Conferences. In the Eastern Conference, a “Michigan League” will feature three (3) sides playing each other twice for a total of four (4) league matches. These sides will be the newly formed second side of Detroit Rugby Club, the Flint Rogues, and the Ypsilanti Pretty Boys. The top two teams at the conclusion will play one another in a Michigan League Final on October 29th.
In the Eastern Conference’s expanded “Buckeye League”, the traditional sides for the Columbus Coyotes, Marysville Rhinos, and Westside Outcasts will compete against the second sides of the Columbus Castaways, Dayton, and Queen City. New to the League will be a recently formed second side for Akron and the resurrected Canton Rugby Club. This League will play a smaller sub-schedule with only four (4) league matches scheduled over several weeks starting on August 27th and ending on October 1st. The top four (4) teams will compete in a Buckeye Semifinal on October 15th and then a Buckeye Final on October 22nd.
In the Western Conference, the “Minnesota League” will feature La Crosse Rugby, Mankato, last year’s D4 Champions, the Red River Ruffians along with the second side of the St. Paul Jazz Pigs and Iowa Falls moving over from Iowa. Each side will play the other once with several games being played at neutral sites to limit travel. This competition will begin on September 3rd and end on October 15th. The top four (4) teams will compete in a Minnesota Semifinal on October 22nd and then a Minnesota Final on October 29th.
Finally, the “CARFU League” will feature the Chicago Dragons and Kenosha Mammoths playing the second sides of Lincoln Park and the Chicago Riot as well as the third side of the Chicago Rugby Club, the CRC Silverbacks. Each team will play the other once for a total of four (4) league matches with competition beginning on September 17th and concluding on October 22nd. The top two (2) sides will compete in a CARFU Final on October 29th.
In the Midwest Semifinals on November 5th, the League Winners from Michigan and Buckeye will face off while the League Winners from Minnesota and CARFU compete at neutral sites. Those winners will play one another at in the Midwest Championship on Saturday, November 12th in Chicago.
WOMEN’S DIVISION 3
The final competition, “Women’s Division 3” is still being developed at the posting of this article. This unique competition will offer valuable playing opportunities to new and developing women’s sides who may not be quite ready for regular League Competition. Stay posted for more information about this competition as it becomes available.