Yearly the largest of the DI club leagues, the Mid-Atlantic has cut down its numbers this season, as Washington and Media dropped to DII.
From ten down to eight is a drastic change, especially as the move takes away 16 of the league's 44 losses. What remains are eight teams of fairly similar competitiveness. The worst 2012 league record among the remaining eight was Northern Virginia, and at 3-5-1 NOVA was only a couple of bounces of the ball away from being over .500.
Four other teams were either 4-5 or 5-4, with Maryland (6-3), Schuylkill River (7-2) and PAC (8-0-1) the three significantly above the even mark.
This year, then, MARFU is that much more competitive. Schuylkill River has go-to players such as Owen Jones and Greg Ambrogi, but they also boast some recruits from rugby league - James Brunson - and Kutztown University - Josh Keys.
Norfolk has some Navy talent (as always) available if they are not on a ship, including some who played for the USS George Washington against a New Zealand naval team while on deployment. The Maryland Exiles welcome leaguer Michael Dimeo.
But everyone is still chasing PAC. They've been stronger, and in some ways the DC-area club is rebuilding, but they won eight out of nine in 2012 and averaged 43 points a game. This is a competitive league, but somebody has to chase the #1 club.
In the opening weekend, Baltimore-Chesapeake (5-4 in 2012) takes on Schuylkill (7-2), Maryland (6-3) is at Raleigh (4-5), Norfolk (5-4) is at Pittsburgh (4-5), and lucky NOVA (3-5-1) visits PAC (8-0-1).
Wins, or even bonus points, on the road count for much in this league. It's how Norfolk made the crossover playoffs. Despite being 5-4, Norfolk ended up finishing ahead of 6-3 Maryland thanks to six four-try bonus points (the Exiles got four) and two bonus-point losses (Maryland zero).
It's the same story this year, but with teams playing everyone twice, each teams gets seven home and seven away matches. Even so, winning on the road - or getting any points on the road - remains a key to success in MARFU.
See the full MARFU Schedule here.