USA Rugby

Major League Rugby Week 18 Preview: Seed Shuffle Ahead On The Final Day?

Major League Rugby Week 18 Preview: Seed Shuffle Ahead On The Final Day?

An upset could mean a seeding shake-up in the East, whereas the West will have a pair of playoff previews in the final round of the MLR's regular season.

Jun 28, 2024 by Briar Napier
Major League Rugby Week 18 Preview: Seed Shuffle Ahead On The Final Day?

We’re here.

It was a bruising journey that took over four months, but Major League Rugby finally has reached the last weekend of regular-season play. Up next, is the long-awaited postseason, which begins next month with the quarterfinal rounds of the eight-team bracket.

While we already know who is going to move on to the MLR’s playoffs, we don’t know the seeding quite yet in some parts of the bracket, adding a sprinkle of drama to this weekend’s final rehearsal before knockout rugby begins.

If you’ve stayed with us for this long, through weeks and weeks of the season’s grind, enjoy all that’s about to go down this weekend before the race for the 2024 MLR title officially begins. 

We can’t wait for next month, either.

Here’s a look at the final week of the MLR’s 2024 regular season, part of FloRugby’s coverage and analysis of North America’s top professional rugby league:

Where Things Stand

Across the two conferences, one thing is similar: all four playoff teams in both the Eastern and Western Conferences have been decided in advance of the final week of the regular season. 

There is no club outside of the playoff positions that would be able to save its season at the death by snatching a late spot, meaning the 2024 season is curtains for the Utah Warriors, Miami Sharks, Rugby FC Los Angeles and Anthem Rugby Carolina after this weekend. 

Where the East and the West differ, however, is in regards to seeding scenarios. 

In the West, it’s not completely official yet, as the No. 3-seeded San Diego Legion theoretically can catch the No. 2 Seattle Seawolves at five points back (though they’d have to make up an essentially impossible scoring differential deficit to Seattle in the process, too), the conference’s playoff quarterfinal matchups almost certainly will see the clinched top seed Houston SaberCats host a Texan rival in the No. 4-seeded Dallas Jackals and Seattle run it back with San Diego on the Seawolves’ home pitch on July 20 and 21, respectively. 

Over in the East, the drama is a bit more spicy, and things are a bit more uncertain going into the regular season’s final round. 

Though the teams from the East going to the playoffs — the New England Free Jacks, NOLA Gold, Chicago Hounds and Old Glory DC — are confirmed after the Hounds and Old Glory clinched their postseason berths last weekend, none of the four seeds have been set in stone yet, as the East’s playoff squads have a lot to play for in Week 18. 

Home-field advantage throughout the playoffs by virtue of being the East’s top seed will either go to defending MLR champion New England (the current No. 1 seed on 50 points) or playoff debuting NOLA (on 48 points), whereas the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds will be occupied by Chicago and DC in some order, depending on results involving the teams from Week 18.

Who’s No. 1?

Even with all of the adversity and squad shuffling New England has gone through this season, the opportunity to play knockout-round rugby in front of home support throughout the playoffs is in its hands. 

Stricken by injuries to major contributors and surviving a midseason slip in form in which they lost three of their five matches (including one to the expansion Miami Sharks, who have been eliminated from playoff contention), the Free Jacks have admirably recovered to make the playoffs and control their own destiny with one regular-season round to go, needing a win or a NOLA loss this weekend to clinch the East’s No. 1 seed. 

And, to make matters even better for New England and its fans, the team only has to get the job done at home Saturday against hapless Anthem, the development-focused expansion side that hasn’t won a game all season and looks likely to be the MLR’s first winless side since Dallas in 2022. 

The Gold are the only ones in the East who can pass the Free Jacks for first place in the table, and though they’d need a monumental result from Anthem to do it, it’s still a great position for NOLA to be in after failing to make the playoffs in each of their previous five (completed) seasons of existence. 

Already having secured a home playoff quarterfinal match, there isn’t a lot for the Gold to lose when they visit Old Glory on Saturday, with the match’s kickoff coming two hours after the start of the Free Jacks-Anthem game. 

A surprising result there, however, would suddenly make the NOLA-DC match one with crazy-high stakes, especially considering Old Glory can secure the East’s No. 3 seed with a win and a Chicago loss against Miami.

Two Playoff Previews

Expect the matches going on in the West this weekend to act more so as tuneups for the postseason ahead, with the four seeds all but locked in place with next to no room for any late shake-ups. 

That’s especially true when taking into account that both Houston-Dallas and San Diego-Seattle are taking on one another in Week 18 in their final matchups before seeing each other again in the playoffs, providing MLR fans with an early look at the West’s side of the knockout rounds. 

The Legion will come into this weekend with a surge of confidence after ending Houston’s eight-match winning streak last week, but it was the Seawolves who got the better of San Diego in their Week 1 matchup, as Seattle scored a late winner, with that result contributing to why the Seawolves’ position as the West’s No. 2 seed isn’t in much jeopardy this weekend. 

The two teams will clash this weekend in San Diego before being slated to run it back in Seattle on July 21, and while the Legion’s aspirations for a home playoff match are slim, there is an important carrot dangling in front of them for postseason play — the fact that this year’s MLR final will take place in San Diego, no matter how the playoff bracket shakes out. 

Meanwhile, Dallas will visit Houston on Saturday, less than a month before doing the exact same thing for each team’s playoff opener on July 20, and while the SaberCats are the favorites to take this year’s MLR title, they must not disregard a Jackals team that thrives in chaos. 

Dallas had Houston on the ropes in their previous meeting this season on March 29, with a late Davy Coetzer penalty salvaging a 30-27 win for the ‘Cats. 

The Jackals are coming off of a wild 50-46 loss to the Utah Warriors last weekend, which tied the MLR record with most total tries in a match with 12, and as one of the highest-scoring teams in the league, Dallas can do plenty of damage with the caveat that it is also susceptible to high-octane attacks itself. 

And exposing weaknesses, helped by a devastating starting XV with excellent depth, is one of the main reasons why Houston is one of the most lethal teams in the MLR in quite some time.

How To Watch Rugby Matches In the United States On FloRugby

The URC will stream all its matches on FloRugby and the FloSports app in the United States. FloRugby and FloSports also are the U.S. home to: 

FloRugby also is home to match archives and match replays. 

Join The Rugby Conversation On FloRugby Social