The RSL founding member, whose multiseason unbeaten streak and 3 championships from 7 consecutive finals appearances qualify the Long Beach, California, club as America's team of the decade, Saturday became the latest to back away from the nationwide competition's heavy spending requirements and opportunity costs to reserve and youth sides. No less than 3 different titlists, with a collective 8 championships under their belts, have left since the league got underway 13 years ago.
The takeaway is not that America's top clubs are badly run. It is that the game's competitive aspirations are finely balanced with its economic structure. Lose a key benefactor or two, and even the most successful outfit is forced to retrench.
This delicacy stands at odds with USARFU's supposition that representative candidates should be playing in the Super League. Though the idea appears sensible and works well enough in 'developed' rugby countries, it doesn't account for RSL's fluidity, combined with the union's own lack of financial support for elite players or clubs.
Strategically, it is not given that Boulder should underwrite the RSL; however, if you are not paying the piper, you should not expect to call the tune. Thus it is rational for athletes to consider their test ambitions in light of their personal well-being. That often means playing for a nearby Division 1 team.
Belmont won its premier 7s title this summer, and several of its players were subsequently invited to an Eagle trials camp. Their prowess did not degrade the moment management decided to leave RSL. Similarly, Aspen, Life, and the Olympic Club snapped back to national stature within a season or two after departing.
But it is perhaps most interesting that college teams, the third major source of Eagles, are inherently more stable than clubs, better resourced, and comprise younger athletes without professional and family obligations.
RSL is expected to consider replacement candidates, accord to people familiar with the matter.
Separately, the league elected two new managing directors in Sean Kelly and incoming president Tony Nash. Greg Rocca continues as the third member of the key steering committee. The transition concludes the tenure of Keith Englebrecht, whose long service established the Dallas-based businessman as a pivotal figure rivaling the stature of Bob Watkins.