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The USA Sevens is an annual rugby sevens tournament held annually during the second weekend of February in Las Vegas in the United States. The USA Sevens is the largest annual rugby competition in North America, drawing over 60,000 fans, and is broadcast live in the United States by NBC and NBC Sports. The USA Sevens was introduced in 2004, and has been held at its current home, Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas every February since 2010. The USA Sevens tournament features 16 teams representing countries from every continent, including the host, the U.S. national team. The tournament has been competitive, with no team able to win the tournament in consecutive years.
The USA Sevens is the fifth of nine tournaments on the IRB Sevens World Series. The IRB Sevens World Series is played throughout the world at eight other venues: Australia, Dubai, South Africa, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, London and Scotland.
Format: The tournament consists of 16 countries participating in 45 matches over a three-day weekend. The 16 teams are divided into four pools of four teams, with seeding determined by finishes in the previous competition in the IRB Sevens World Series. Wins are worth three points, draws two, and losses one. The top two teams from each group progress to the quarterfinals to compete for the Cup (places 1-4) and Plate (places 5-8). The bottom two teams from each group participate in the Bowl (places 9-12) and Shield (places 13-16) competitions.
Through the 2011-12 edition, the sixteen participating teams were the 12 “core” members of the IRB Sevens World Series circuit, along with 4 additional qualifying teams—other teams that qualified multiple times during the 2009-2012 span included Japan, Canada, Uruguay and Guyana. Starting with the 2012–13 season, the number of core teams increased from 12 to 15, with Canada, Spain and Portugal earning the three new slots.
Popularity and Growth: The USA Sevens is the largest annual rugby competition in North America. The tournament has grown in popularity since the tournament began in 2004. In recent years, a number of events have accelerated the surge in popularity, including the announcement in 2009 that rugby would return to the Summer Olympics, the general growth of rugby in the United States, the improved performance of the U.S. national rugby team including their success in reaching the semi-finals of the 2009 USA Sevens, and NBC’s decision to begin televising the tournament beginning in 2011.
Attendance: Tournament attendance has grown rapidly since its inception in 2004. The tournament drew 15,800 fans in 2004,25,000 fans in 2007,and 37,000 fans in 2009.The tournament switched to a three-day format in 2011, and drew 49,909 fans that year.The tournament drew over 64,107 fans in 2012, including 30,112 on the second day of the event, setting a new record for the largest crowd to watch a rugby event in the United States.The 2013 tournament broke attendance records again, with total attendance of 67,341, and a single-day attendance record of 31,228.
Media coverage: The profile and visibility of the USA Sevens has increased in the United States since NBC began broadcasting the tournament in 2011, marking the first time that the tournament had live television coverage on network TV in the United States. NBC Sports and Universal Sports broadcast eight hours of live coverage of the 2011 tournament, including 4 hours of coverage on NBC. NBC increased its television coverage for the 2012 tournament, showing 10 hours of live coverage, including 4 hours on NBC and 4 hours on NBC Sports.The 2012 USA Sevens earned strong ratings of 0.7 on NBC, beating other popular sports events that weekend such as the Detroit v. Philadelphia NHL game (0.4) and the Alabama v. LSU basketball game (0.3). NBC again increased its TV coverage in 2013, with 16 hours of coverage across three channels, including 4 hours on NBC and 6 hours on NBC Sports.
NBC Sports has displayed an increased interest in broadcasting rugby since the International Olympic Committee’s announcement in 2009 that rugby would return to the Summer Olympics in 2016. NBC Sports has recognized that its partnership with USA Sevens to broadcast the tournament will help grow the sport of rugby in the United States.
For the 2009–10 season, ESPN3 held internet streaming rights to the IRB Sevens World Series, and streamed live all 44 matches of the 2010 USA Sevens, as well as all trophy finals in all other legs of the series. Setanta Sports previously held the cable rights to the USA Sevens, with highlights shown on ABC after the tournament’s conclusion. Previously, it was covered on the America One network.
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