SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — International rugby is coming to Sacramento, thanks to the city’s new soccer team.
The best of the best will duke it out when the U.S. men’s team takes on Canada on June 21 at the Sacramento Republic FC’s Cal Expo stadium.
McClatchy High junior Diego Gutierrez and his rugby team were on hand for the big announcement in Land Park on Wednesday.
“I’m amazed, because if I go, it will be my first international rugby game,” he said.
The stadium is currently being built in advance of the Republic’s home season.
“Tied for first as the largest soccer field in the country, but it was important for us to do that so that we could host these type of events,” said Sacramento Republic President Warren Smith.
The national rugby team had been looking for a place to play, and USA Rugby’s Jon Persch saiys the new stadium happened to be a good fit.
“We struggle to find facilities that will actually fit us and fit international rugby and be approved by the international rugby board, so we keep our eye on things,” he said.
The match is another victory for Sacramento, which is already riding high with the Republic starting play, a new Downtown arena on the horizon, the Amgen Tour of California next month, and the USA Track and Field Championships in June.
“Sacramento has got a lot of attention in the sporting world, and we’ve tried to leverage that attention by bringing events here,” said Mike Testa with the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau.
USA Rugby officials say the sport is growing in popularity in Northern California, growing from just 363 registered youth players to more than 5,000 in 2014.
Louis Stanfill is one of three Sacramento area natives on the U.S. team. After going 0-3 against Canada last year, he’s ready to take them on in his hometown.
“They better watch out, ’cause the colors don’t run,” he said.
The game is expected to sell out the 8,000 seat stadium and bring in about $500,000 to the region.
“It’s also the image of Sacramento, the branding of Sacramento,” Testa said. “All those things help to attract not only sporting events, but conventions, and that benefits the people who live here.”
Tickets for the match go on sale on Tuesday.