USARFU has sold out the stadium for tomorrow's New Zealand Maori game, a rare November home match.
The success follows a pair of near-capacity matches in Houston, against Ireland in June and Italy 12 months earlier.
As little as a quarter of PPL’s 18,500 have attended recent games against Fiji, Georgia, and even Canada, however. The record suggests the test game’s appeal primarily lies in the opposition, rather than the US XV.
USARFU has taken advantage of the proliferation of Major League Soccer stadia, which are sufficiently large for a rugby field and not so big as to dwarf a strong turnout. Big-time football venues are just the opposite. But the Staples Center, in metropolitan Los Angeles, could not surmount Fiji’s apparent lack of fan appeal.
Hopes of drawing bigger-name teams appear to follow America’s performance in the world rankings, which has slipped to 18th, at the bottom of international rugby’s second division. Since 2006, the Eagles have skidded to 4-22 against rival ‘tier 2’ teams.
Thus, while the US is hosting the Maori, the All Blacks, New Zealand’s top side, last week visited Japan — a game which sold out in 30 minutes.
The Eagles have twice before met the Maori, dropping a rambunctious 69-31 contest at the 2004 Churchill Cup in Calgary, and surrendering a 74-6 loss during the 2006 edition in Santa Clara, California. Backrower Todd Clever is the sole survivor from the latter match.
St. Mary's wing Tim Maupin and 33-year-old OMBAC lock Tai Tuisamoa make their first national team starts in a lineup that appears to be first choice, but for a handful of overseas players who did not travel to Philadelphia for the one-off match. Next week find the Eagles in Eastern Europe.
United States v New Zealand Maori
Adam Siddal (Old Blue); Luke Hume (Old Blue), Seamus Kelly (Univ. of California), Andrew Suniula (Wasps), Tim Maupin (St. Mary’s); Toby L’Estrange (New York AC), Mike Petri (New York AC); Nick Wallace (St. Mary’s), Phil Thiel (Life Univ.), Shawn Pittman (undeclared), Scott Lavalla (Stade Francais), Tai Tuisamoa (OMBAC), Todd Clever (captain, NTT Communications), Peter Dahl (Belmont Shore), Cameron Dolan (Life Univ.)
Reserves: Zach Fenoglio (Glendale), Titi Lamositele (Saracens), Olive Kilifi (Old Puget Sound Beach), Graham Harriman (Chicago Griffins), Kyle Sumison (Brigham Young); Shaun Davies (Glendale), Zach Pangelinan (Glendale), Folau Niua (USA 7s)