Eighth Bingham Cup returns stateside to celebrate rugby, inclusion

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - The biennial Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Cup returns stateside when the three-day tournament kicks off May 27 at Ted Rhodes Park in Nashville. More commonly referred to as the Bingham Cup, the eighth rendition of the tournament featuring gay and bisexual rugby teams celebrates rugby's non-discriminatory stance and a brave American who lit a fire in the gay rugby community - Mark Bingham.

Following a decorated rugby career at Cal, Bingham helped form the San Francisco Fog - one of the very first gay rugby teams to be accepted into its union. Just months after the Fog was included into the Northern California Rugby Union, Bingham boarded September 11's Flight 93 that was hijacked in 2001. To little surprise to those who knew Bingham best, the rugby lifer was one of the passengers that stormed the hijackers, and prevented additional casualties by forcing the plane to crash in an empty Pennsylvania field.

At the time of Bingham's tragic death, only six gay rugby clubs existed - two of which Bingham helped form. Today, five years after the rugby community lost one of its all-time heroic symbols, there are nearly 60 such clubs.

Beginning in 2002, the Bingham Cup has traveled the world to provide gay rugby teams an avenue to play in a highly competitive tournament, while also spreading a message that rugby is for everyone. Since the inaugural tournament in San Francisco, clubs have contested for the Bingham Cup in locations such as London, New York, Manchester, and Sydney.

This weekend's tournament marks the first time the event is played on U.S. soil since the Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Cup was held in Minneapolis six years ago. At the 2010 event, local club Gotham Knights upended the Sydney Convicts to claim the Bingham Cup.

The Bingham Cup continues to grow as the tournament heads to Nashville. This year, a record 1,300 athletes from 45 teams representing 21 countries will compete for Cup supremacy, all the while raising money for the host Nashville Grizzlies' preferred charity - Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.

The hard-hitting action at the 2016 Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Cup begins May 27 and concludes May 29. For Bingham Cup updates throughout the weekend, follow @BinghamCup2016 on Twitter.