The Runner Sports

Major League Rugby: Glendale Raptors Leading The Development Pathway

One of the requirements identified by Major League Rugby is for their clubs to have an academy system as some form of development pipeline and the Glendale Raptors are leading the way in terms of development. With an academy system already in place and a pathway system complete with a U20 squad, the Raptors are the example for others to follow.

Youth Movement

Beginning with their youth program, Glendale offers after-school introduction programs for ages 5 to 9, summer co-ed flag rugby for ages 5 to 12, indoor winter rugby for ages 5 to 14, and the full contact Try League for ages 5 to 14, which runs concurrent to the USA Rugby Spring Season. Glendale also has a high-performance program while also providing boys and girl’s high school clinics and specialized instruction. Their U20 program is still recruiting and under development but it clearly demonstrates the Raptors’ intent to provide a pathway to their Elite Club. The bridge from U20 to the Elite squad is Glendale’s Men’s Development squads, who compete is the Frontier Competitive Region of USA Rugby. The competition at the development level is high, the Raptors D2 squad made the 2017 USAR playoffs losing to eventual Western Conference Champion St. Louis Bombers.


Another aspect of the Raptors development program, while not officially considered development, is their 7s squad. Club 7s is a great way to maintain the ruggers edge in the 15s off-season, work on conditioning levels, and another way to further develop backs as they work on speed, ball handling, and passing in a competitive environment. To get to those high-performance, developmental squads, and eventually be among the Elite, it needs to start early; that’s the purpose behind MLR’s mandate for their clubs to create development systems and youth camps are part of that.

Raptor Camp

July 10-13, Glendale is hosting a boy’s high school rugby camp led by Raptors Director of Rugby Development and former USA Eagle Luke Gross and Elite Head Coach David Williams along with Elite Club players Niku Kruger and Luke White.

Model for Success

Another reason Glendale is leading the way is that they focus on the women’s game as well and with the success of their Women’s Elite squad in the Women’s Premier League. Their approach proves it works; their girl’s high school camp follows the week after the boys. All indications are a solid future of success ahead for the Glendale Raptors in the MLR.



-By Jason Graves