Article by Alex Solmon | Originally published at usarugby.org
LAFAYETTE, Colo. - Five qualifying events are set for June 18 as teams make their initial push towards a place in the 2016 USA Rugby Club 7s National Championships, to be held August 13-14.
In the Midwest, the western half of the division gets its first crack in sevens at the Madtown 7s in Madison, Wisc. In the Southern Competitive Region, both the Florida and True South Division get underway at Fiji 7s and NOLA 7s, respectively.
Some of the very best teams on the east coast, and in the country, fill out a must-see men's field at Atlantic North's first qualifier Monmouth 7s. At OMBAC 7s in San Diego the field is equally strong, boasting three Pacific Rugby Premiership teams - including the reigning two-time champion Glendale Raptors.
FIJI 7S - MIAMI, FL
The Florida region of the Southern sevens competition begins its first of three qualifiers for the July 23 South 7s Championship at Saturday's Fiji 7s. The home team, Miami Rugby, will be flexing its numbers with three teams entered into the men's 14-team field.
Naples Hammerheads and Central Florida University could make a run at the Final. The Hammerheads finished second in the Florida DII conference, while the Knights of Central Florida bullied their way to D1AA National Championships in 15s in both 2013 and 2014.
In the women's qualifying tournament, Fort Miami and Orlando Rugby lead a four-team race for first place at Fiji 7s. In 15s, the two squads tied for top of the points standings during the 2015 Florida DII season, with each team winning on home soil over the other.
Men's Qualifying Field
Bay Area Baracus
Boca Raton Buccaneers
Brevard Old Red Eye
Daytona Beach Coconuts
Florida Atlantic University
Palm Beach Panthers
University of Central Florida
Women's Qualifying Field
Fort Miami Rugby
MADTOWN RUGBY 7S - MADISON, WI
The Chicago Lions have advanced to nine consecutive Club 7s National Championships, and the team does not plan to end that streak coming off of a 13-1 season in 15s. The 2007 National Champions will not breeze by the Madtown field with league rivals from a stout Midwest Conference sure to push hard for a tournament win.
Metropolis has been one of the region's dominant forces in 15s for years, yet has not had the same consistency in sevens. Seeking its first appearance at Nationals since 2003, Metropolis has hopes of making a smoother transition into the summer after another terrific season ended in the National Quarterfinals.
The women's six-team qualifying tournament is too competitive to deem the Women of 1823 favorites, even though they are coming off last week's win at Cin City 7s. The Chicago Lions have not missed Nationals since 2013, and you would have to go back to 2011 to find a National Championship that did not include the YoungBloodz. Both will be expecting to punch tickets to Denver.
Wisconsin Rugby is not a team to sleep on, either. Although they have had a long season after reaching the Women's DII National Championship for a second straight season, they will be hungry after failing to defend its title against Life West.
The Wisconsin Rugby Club Sports Complex, where hosts Wisconsin Rugby will be in the mix for a men's qualifying trophy, will also host high school and women's open tournaments.
Men's Qualifying Field
St. Paul Jazz Pigs
Women's Qualifying Field
Grand Rapids Gazelles
MONMOUTH 7S - LINCROFT, NJ
2015 Men's Cup Quarterfinalist Old Blue of New York and '15 third-place finisher Mystic River headline a tough Northeast qualifier at Monmouth 7s. Both Mystic River and Old Blue were bounced by eventual Champions Seattle Saracens during the second day at Nationals last year.
Old Blue has two teams playing in opposite sides of the bracket, so there is no avoiding a rematch of the May 22 National Semifinal in 15s that saw Mystic River onto the Final, where it crowned itself Champions following its defeat of the Austin Blacks.
The Monmouth field will also include Bulldog Rugby, Long Island Rugby, the Village Lions, White Plains Rugby, and a New York Athletic Club team that reached a National Quarterfinal in sevens as recently as 2014. The clubs of Long Island (2001) and White Plains (1996) have history at Nationals, as well.
Although the eight-side men's qualifier is the only one scheduled for Monmouth 7s, six other tournaments will be competed on the day. Included in the slate of tournaments are boys and girls high school brackets, and a women's open field that should act as quality preparation for future Northeast qualifiers for the likes of 2014 Cup Finalist Old Blue, which will enter two squads, and the Women's Premier League's New York Rugby.
NOLA 7S - NEW ORLEANS, LA
A lack of interest in the men's qualifying tournament will see an open field and limited qualifying field combined for pool play at NOLA 7s. New Orleans Royale, the likely favorites, has reached Nationals two of the past three summers.
Among the eight total competing teams is a Louisiana State University side that reached the Quarterfinals of the D1A Rugby Playoffs.
A three-team women's non-qualifier pitting Battleship Rugby, Chattanooga, and the Crescent City Hurricanes against one another will also be held.
OMBAC 7S - SAN DIEGO, CA
OMBAC 7s will feature some of Southern California's very best men's teams, but also a host of teams leaving their Competitive Region to play in what should be one of the most highly competitive qualifiers of the summer.
The teams that will earn Pacific South points towards qualification include Santa Monica. The Dolphins have reached Club 7s National Championships the last two years, but did not reach the Cup rounds in either tournament.
Surprisingly enough, six-time Club 7s National Champion Old Mission Beach Athletic Club has not been to Nationals since 2013, and has not finished better than 10th at the end of the summer event since losing in the Cup Final in 2007. Another impressive 15s season for OMBAC in the Pacific Rugby Premiership bodes well for the club heading into its host tournament.
Belmont Shore is not too far behind OMBAC in the record books with three National Championships of its own. The men from Long Beach have had more recent success than OMBAC, as well, reaching Nationals nine consecutive seasons, finishing in the top five in seven of those years, and winning the title three times over that span.
The San Diego Old Aztecs, coming off of their best season in 15s as a DI club, and the recent DII National Champion Tempe Old Devils could be in the hunt for a deep tourney run, too.
Several out-of-town squads will not leave OMBAC 7s with Pacific South qualifying points, but will return to their Competitive Regions better for having played in the tournament. Life West and Olympic Club finished in the top three of last week's Modesto 7s, and are heading to San Diego this weekend. The Glendale Raptors have played in each of the three Pacific Rugby Premiership Finals, winning the last two, but have not been able to translate their enormous success in 15s into sevens. The Raptors are displaying just how badly they want to reach Nationals for the first time since 2011 by dusting off the cobwebs at OMBAC 7s before an incredibly competitive three-series Frontier competition.
Not to be forgotten from the star-studded OMBAC 7s cast is the Mexican Men's National Team. Playing domestic competition isn't new for Mexico, having played Arizona State in a 15s match as recently as April.
Men's Qualifying Field
Kern County Rugby
Life West Gladiators
Los Angeles Rugby
Mexico National Team
Old Mission Beach Athletic Club
Orange County Ravens
San Diego Old Aztecs
Santa Monica Dolphins
Tempe Old Devils