United States Football League
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2023 USFL season
United States Football League (2022) logo.png
SportAmerican football
Founded2021
FounderBrian Woods
Inaugural season2022
Owner(s)National Spring Football League Enterprises Co, LLC[1]
PresidentBrian Woods
No. of teams8
CountryUnited States
HeadquartersBirmingham, Alabama
U.S.
Venue(s)Protective Stadium
Legion Field
Most recent
champion(s)
Birmingham Stallions
(1st title)
Most titlesBirmingham Stallions
(1 title)
TV partner(s)
Related
competitions
XFL
Official websiteUSFL.com

The United States Football League (USFL) is a professional American football minor league[2][3] that began play on April 16, 2022. The inaugural 2022 regular season was played in its entirety in Birmingham, Alabama.[4] The postseason games were played in Canton, Ohio, at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.[5]

The league is currently owned by National Spring Football League Enterprises Co, LLC, a joint venture between founder Brian Woods and Fox Corporation's sports unit, Fox Sports in the United States. Although the league owns the trademarks of the old USFL, which operated for three seasons during the mid-1980s, the new USFL is not officially associated with that entity.[6] This is the fourth attempt to launch a league using USFL naming, including prior attempts in 1945, the aforementioned attempt in 1983, and 2010.[7][8][9] Upon the conclusion of its first season, the league became the first high-level spring football league to complete a season since the original iteration of the XFL, following the early shutdown of the AAF and COVID-19-induced hiatus of the second XFL.

The current USFL champions are the Birmingham Stallions, who won the league's most recent championship game against the Philadelphia Stars on July 3, 2022.

History

On June 3, 2021, it was announced that the United States Football League would be making a return and would begin its inaugural season in April 2022. Fox was also announced as a minority owner in the league.[10]

On October 12, 2021, Tad Snider, the executive director of the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Authority, announced that the league was in serious discussions with the board of directors of the BJCC about the possibility of the USFL playing all of its games in Birmingham, Alabama. According to initial information, USFL players/staff would be housed in Birmingham during the season for an estimated economic impact of about $15 million (47,000 hotel nights), while the league would play the bubble season at Protective Stadium and Legion Field.[11][12][13] The "bubble" setup may possibly continue in the league's second year, with as many as four teams playing in Birmingham and as many as four in their respective cities. The teams would then be expected to play in their own cities by Season 3.[14]

The proposal included an eight-team 10-week season with two additional playoff rounds, from April 16 through July 3, 2022, with the broadcast proposal as follows: 25% each on Fox, NBC, FS1 and USA. Later on December 15, 2021, Fox and NBC had finalized their agreement. NBC announced that it would air nine games on NBC itself, eight on USA, and four on its streaming service Peacock.[15][16][17]

On November 17, 2021, it was announced that The Spring League founder Brian Woods would serve as the league's president, as well as Daryl Johnston as EVP of football operations, Mike Pereira as head of officiating, and Edward Hartman as EVP of business operations.[18]

On January 4, 2022, NBC Sports reported that a “player selection meeting” would be held on February 22 and 23 to set teams. Training camp was to begin on March 21.[19][20]

On January 6, 2022, four of eight teams unveiled their head coaches and general managers on The Herd with Colin Cowherd,

Two weeks later on January 20, 2022, two more head coaches were announced.

The final two head coaches were announced the following week on January 27, 2022.

On January 25, 2022, the city of Birmingham announced that the league headquarters would be in Birmingham, and all games of the 2022 USFL season would be played at Protective Stadium and Legion Field.[25]

The first game was played on April 16, 2022 between the Birmingham Stallions and the New Jersey Generals at Protective Stadium. The game was broadcast by Fox and NBC, the first football game simulcast on over-the-air broadcast networks since the final week of the 2007 NFL regular season when a game between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants aired on CBS and NBC in addition to cable NFL Network.[citation needed] Tickets were released to the public at $10 per person; children aged 15 and under were admitted for free.[26]

On February 16, 2022, the league announced that the 2022 Playoffs would be held in Canton, Ohio, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium instead of Birmingham due to conflicting scheduling with the 2022 World Games.[27] The following day, on February 17, 2022, the league revealed uniforms for each team.[28] The day after that the league announced the draft order for the 2022 USFL Draft.[29]

On June 27, 2022, Fox Sports confirmed to Sports Business Journal that the USFL would return for another season in 2023. There would be no expansion that year, and the league would continue to use a hub model, with "two to four" locations housing all eight teams.[30]

Connection to 1980s USFL

There is no legal connection between the new entity and the source of its name, the original United States Football League, which operated from 1983 to 1986 and was officially dissolved in 1990. No principals from the former USFL are involved in the current league's ownership; Brian Woods, who had previously launched the Fall Experimental Football League and The Spring League, was initially the primary owner of the new league. By October 2021, Woods had been demoted to a vice president role[31] as Fox Sports set up a subsidiary, the National Spring Football League, to operate the league.[32] The Spring League, and later the NSFL, acquired most of the USFL's trademarks after the last attempt to revive them, the A-11 Football League, let them go dormant after its own failed launch in 2014. The new USFL did not inherit the old USFL's unpaid liabilities, nor its television contract; it instead holds a new contract with Fox Sports, which already owns both the rights to and an equity stake in The Spring League, and with NBC Sports.

According to Steve Ehrhart, former USFL executive director, he still owns the league rights and the "USFL still exists", while stating that the league officials still get monthly royalty checks. He also mentioned that he refused previous attempts to "buy" the league, "including the people who founded the first version of the XFL".[33] Ehrhart would later explain that he was only "trying to protect the league legacy".[34]

Lawsuit

On February 28, 2022, "The Real USFL, LLC," a group fronted by Larry Csonka (acting in his capacity as general manager of the original Jacksonville Bulls) and claiming to represent the interests of the owners of the former USFL franchises, filed suit to stop the current USFL from using the name or trademarks associated with the original league.[35][36] In response, the league attorneys claimed "The new USFL registered its intellectual property rights in 2011".[37]

On April 14 (two days before the scheduled start of the new USFL's regular season), federal judge John F. Walter of the Central District of California denied a preliminary injunction to bar the new USFL from using the original league's name and trademarks, remarking that while the plaintiffs were "likely to prevail" on their claim of trademark infringement, "any alleged harm" could be "easily compensated by monetary damages".[38] The Real USFL, LLC withdrew its suit with prejudice on August 22, 2022.

Rule changes unique to USFL

On March 23, 2022, the USFL announced an initial series of rule tweaks it would implement for its games.[39] The league's rule variations and subsequent changes include the following:

Timing rules

Kickoffs and punts

Standard play

Penalties and officiating

Replay challenges

Points after touchdown

Overtime

Games that are tied after regulation will be resolved with an overtime session that combines elements of college football's overtime system with penalty shootouts used in soccer and ice hockey.

League finances

Fox Sports owns the league and has reportedly committed $150 million–$200 million over three years to its operations,[47][48] with plans to attract an additional $250 million from investors.[49] For the 2022 regular season, tickets would be sold at $10 per person, with children aged 15 and under free, for the two semi-final games tickets are sold at $15 per person and children under 15 at $5 those prices are increased by $5 for the championship game.[50]

The league draws revenue of less than $10 million, making it ineligible to seek P visas for players from outside the United States; Liam Dobson, a Canadian offensive lineman, was disqualified from playing in the USFL because of the league's lack of revenue.[51]

Gambling

On March 3, 2022, the league announced fifteen states have approved legal, regulated betting on USFL games.[52]

Players compensation

USFL players and staff will be able to receive a college degree "tuition-free and debt-free", through a partnership with for-profit universities Strategic Education’s Capella University and Strayer University. They will be able to take classes online or in-person.[53]

Player pay structure will be $45,000 for Active Roster players, $15,000 for Practice Squad Players, and $600 weekly during training camp. Players will also receive win bonuses of $850 per win and $10,000 for winning the championship.[54][55] Players will be required to pay their own rent, however, while the league offers a reduced hotel price at a cost of $75 per room per day, with an option for two players to share a room.[56]

Teams

The league announced the 2022 season will be played "with a minimum of eight teams."[57] In addition to obtaining the rights to the USFL name and logo, the new league has obtained the rights to the aforementioned former league's team names including the Los Angeles Express, Chicago Blitz, Tampa Bay Bandits, and Houston Gamblers.[58][59] Additionally, the Generals rights are owned by The Spring League, another Woods entity. Since its original announcement, the USFL had purchased more trademarks including new team names like the Birmingham Stallions, Jacksonville Bulls, and Portland Breakers, and variations on the already existing trademarks.

Eight teams were announced on November 22, 2021.[60] Each of the eight teams has a 38-man active roster and a 7-man practice squad.[19]

Team[61] Based City/State Head coach
South Division
Birmingham Stallions Birmingham, Alabama Skip Holtz
Houston Gamblers Houston, Texas Kevin Sumlin
New Orleans Breakers New Orleans, Louisiana vacant
Tampa Bay Bandits Tampa, Florida Todd Haley
North Division
Michigan Panthers Detroit, Michigan Jeff Fisher
New Jersey Generals East Rutherford, New Jersey Mike Riley
Philadelphia Stars Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Bart Andrus
Pittsburgh Maulers Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Kirby Wilson

Draft

Main article: 2022 USFL Draft

The inaugural draft took place on February 22, 2022.

Champions

USFL Champions
Date Winning Team Losing Team Location MVP Telecast
Stadium City Network Viewership
July 3, 2022 Birmingham Stallions 33 Philadelphia Stars 30 Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium Canton, Ohio Victor Bolden Jr. Fox 1.52 million

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