Article by Alex Solomon | Originally published at usarugby.org
LAFAYETTE, Colo. - The final nine seeds to the 2016 USA Rugby Club 7s National Championships at Dick's Sporting Good Park in Commerce City, Colo., will be earned over two regional championship events Saturday, July 30. In the Midwest Championship, 1823 Rugby and the Chicago Lions have hopes of qualifying both their men's and women's sides, while Life West and Seattle Saracens will have plans to do the same at the Pacific North Championship in San Francisco. Both qualifying events are chock-full of talented teams, making this weekend's top finishers honest contenders at the Aug. 13-14 National Championship event in Colorado.
Midwest 7s Championship
1823 Rugby has been the class of the Midwest's Eastern competition this summer, while the Chicago Lions have led the pack out of the West. Both appear to be the clear favorites to claim the two men's Midwest seeds to Nationals. The Chicago Blaze, Cincinnati Wolfhounds, and Cleveland Crusaders could sneak into the Cup Finals at the regional championship if either team can play its best rugby on Saturday. Meanwhile, Metropolis and the Milwaukee Barbarians have not shown the consistency this summer to make one think they could knock off either 1823 or the Lions.
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The women's bracket at the Midwest Championship is a bit more cluttered. The beginning of the summer belonged to 1823, but it has been the Chicago Griffins that have won the past two qualifiers out of the region. Additionally, the Chicago Lions and Youngbloodz have National Championship pedigrees, and will expect to claim one of two Midwest spots for this year's event. Not to be forgotten, the Grand Rapids Gazelles have looked very strong at points this summer, and the Cincinnati Wolfhounds have a first-place finish at Rock 'n' Roll 7s to boast.
Pacific North 7s Championship
San Francisco, CA
A five-team round robin will decide two men's Pacific North seeds to Nationals, and three places to Club 7s Championships for the women out of the region. The Pacific North will send three women's sides to Colorado due to Hawaii having its seed withdrawn from Nationals.
The women's round robin will be extremely competitive, with only the San Jose Seahawks not having experience playing at Club 7s National Championships. The pecking order, however, has to start with 2015 Cup Finalists Seattle Saracens. The reigning, two-time Division I Champions in 15s look awfully strong in sevens again, but not unbeatable. Oregon Sports Union proved as much with its win over Seattle in the Final of July 9's Can-Am 7s.
From northern California, the Berkeley All Blues and Life West Gladiatrix will be gunning for a spot in the Finals at the Pacific North Championship. Berkeley may just be the most decorated women's sevens team in history, while the Gladiatrix are coming off of a DII National Championship in 15s, and have plans to return to a second consecutive Club 7s Nationals.
As with the women's field, the Saracens figure to be favorites on the men's side, as well. Seattle has won the previous three Club 7s National Championships, only dropping a single match in the process. Still, Saturday's regional championship will not be a walk in the park for the Saracens. Olympic Club has seen a rise in its overall play this summer with the return of former Eagles Colin Hawley and Rikus Pretorius.
Less is known about the Westside Ronin, who join Seattle as the other Pacific North team at the regional championship. South Bay Area clubs East Palo Alto Razorbacks and Life West Gladiators will be competing in San Francisco with a chip on their shoulders. The Razorbacks failed to qualify for Nationals last year after making a run to the Cup Quarterfinals in the 2014 Championship event. Life West, on the other hand, made its first Nationals appearance last August, but finished a disappointing 15th. The Gladiators not only want to qualify for Nationals on Saturday, but rectify last year's results, too.