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Gillette Stadium has a good chance of hosting Rugby World Cup games in 2031 and 2033

Construction is underway to renovate the north end of Gillette Stadium.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The Rugby World Cup is coming to the United States twice — the men in 2031 and the women in 2033 — and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough appears to have a strong chance of being selected as one of the 9-12 host sites of the third-largest sporting event in the world.

The process of winnowing the 25 applicants to the final group will not conclude before 2027.

But the early signs look promising, and the Boston area would reap an economic boost measured in billions of dollars to be a staging ground for some portion of the 50-day event, perhaps even the finals. More than 3.1 million tickets are expected to be available for purchase by fans from around the world.


“The Rugby World Cup is the third-largest event in the world, only behind the FIFA World Cup and the Summer Olympics,” said Phil Buttafuoco, executive director of special events for Kraft Sports and Entertainment, “so when you talk about the opportunity for the Rugby World Cup to stimulate the local economy through the hospitality industry, the hotels, restaurants, and driving international tourists to Boston and Massachusetts, this was a no-brainer for us, collectively, in Massachusetts to jump on board the opportunity.

“For the stadium, it’s great. For the Kraft family [owner of the stadium, the Patriots, and the Revolution], certainly it’d be a great feather in their cap of hosting a World Cup rugby event. But for the state of Massachusetts, it would have a long-term positive impact with international tourists.”

For the men’s 2019 World Cup held in Japan, 1.7 million tickets were sold, with an Ernst & Young analysis showing $5 billion in economic spillover impact and $2.5 billion in direct impact to the Japanese economy from the event. The city of Tokyo, which hosted the opening ceremonies and eight matches, saw $1.4 billion in economic spillover impact, with $877 million in direct impact.


Gillette Stadium is considered to have a decent chance of being selected as one of the hosts for the 2026 men’s soccer World Cup, which be held at 16 venues across North America. If selected, Gillette will need some alterations, including a natural-grass field and width expansions, to meet FIFA requirements.

Similar adjustments would have to be made to accommodate world-class rugby, but Gillette’s experience “only helps” the chances, said Jim Brown, executive chair of the USA Rugby World Cup bid committee. That it’s on the East Coast increases the chances of being in contention to host the semifinals and final, since a daytime start can mean a prime-time broadcast across the Atlantic.

“We know Boston very well, we know how they operate, they’ve been involved in a lot of big soccer events as well and I think that only helps,” said Brown. “And let’s hope they’re included as well in 2026, which will only help because the field dimensions make it easier for their selection.”

Buttafuoco said the New England Free Jacks, the Boston-area Major League Rugby team, will play a “really important” role in the coming years of raising rugby’s profile and “driving interest and awareness and passion in rugby.

“We believe the history of rugby in the United States starts here in Boston,” he said. “The first rugby match in the United States was played in Boston in 1874, and really is the foundation for rugby here in Massachusetts and throughout New England.”


Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeSilvermanBB.