|Current season, competition or edition:|
2024 USFL season
|Classification||Spring football league|
|Owner(s)||National Spring Football League Enterprises Co, LLC|
|No. of teams||8|
|Most titles||Birmingham Stallions|
|Direct: TSL, FXFL|
The United States Football League (USFL) is a professional American football minor league that began play on April 16, 2022. As of 2023, the league operates eight teams, seven of which are east of the Mississippi River; all eight teams bear the brands of teams from a previous incarnation of the United States Football League that operated from 1983 to 1985.
The league is currently owned by National Spring Football League Enterprises Co, LLC, a subsidiary of 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.
On September 28, 2023, the USFL announced its intention to merge with the XFL. On November 30, 2023, the leagues issued a statement that they "have completed the antitrust review process in connection with the proposed merger of the XFL and USFL and intend to play a combined season this spring kicking off on Saturday, March 30. We are now finalizing terms of the definitive agreement".
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. This was the fifth attempt to launch a league using USFL naming, including prior attempts in 1945, a league proposed in the 1960s by eventual 1980s USFL founder David Dixon, the aforementioned league that existed between 1983 and 1985, and in 2010.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
See also: 2022 USFL season
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.
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. Tickets were released to the public at $10 per person; children aged 15 and under were admitted for free.
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. The following day, on February 17, 2022, the league revealed uniforms for each team. The day after that the league announced the draft order for the 2022 USFL draft. The Birmingham Stallions became the first new USFL champions, after winning the league championship game against the Philadelphia Stars on July 3, 2022, 33–30. 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 in 2001, following the early shutdown of the AAF and COVID-19-induced hiatus of the second XFL in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
See also: 2023 USFL season
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. In October 13, the league signed an exclusive partnership agreement with HUB Football, which ended in June 2023, when HUB's owner Don Yee decided to pull the plug on the operation.
On November 15, 2022, the USFL and the City of Memphis, Tennessee announced that the Tampa Bay Bandits organization would effectively be relocated to Memphis as the Memphis Showboats, taking on the name and identity of the team from the original incarnation of the league. The team will play all of its home games at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, which will also serve as another "hub" site for the league to host multiple teams at in addition to Birmingham.
Johnston expressed disappointment for the viewership results of the 2023 season, acknowledging fan interest in Birmingham had diminished compared to 2022 and expressing anger that the league's television ratings were comparable to the XFL's and not the "far superior... not even close" results he had anticipated. In an interview later in the offseason, Johnston indicated that he believed the league was on track to surpass college football as a "better alternative."
See also: 2024 USFL season
On June 27, 2023, President of Football Operations Daryl Johnston confirmed in an interview that the league will return for the 2024 season. On September 19, 2023, Axios reported that the USFL was in advanced talks with the XFL to merge the two leagues prior to the start of their 2024 seasons. On September 28, 2023, the USFL and XFL announced their intent to merge. Specific details surrounding the merger will be announced at a later date, The merger would also require regulatory approval, which was granted November 30.
The league announced the 2022 season will be played "with a minimum of eight teams." 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. 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. Each of the eight teams originally had a 38-man active roster and a 7-man practice squad. However, the league decided midway through the 2022 season to expand rosters to a 40-man active game day roster, along with a 10-man practice squad
|Team||Based City/State||Stadium||Capacity||First season||Head coach|
|Michigan Panthers||Detroit, Michigan||Ford Field||65,000||2022||Mike Nolan|
|New Jersey Generals||East Rutherford, New Jersey||Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium||23,000||2022||Mike Riley|
|Philadelphia Stars||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||Ford Field||65,000||2022||Bart Andrus|
|Pittsburgh Maulers||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium||23,000||2022||Ray Horton|
|Birmingham Stallions||Birmingham, Alabama||Protective Stadium||47,100||2022||Skip Holtz|
|Houston Gamblers||Houston, Texas||Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium||58,325||2022||Curtis Johnson|
|Memphis Showboats||Memphis, Tennessee||Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium||58,325||2023||Todd Haley|
|New Orleans Breakers||New Orleans, Louisiana||Protective Stadium||47,100||2022||John DeFilippo|
|Team||City/State||1st season||Last season||Head coach|
|Tampa Bay Bandits||Tampa, Florida||2022||Todd Haley|
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 as Fox Sports set up a subsidiary, the National Spring Football League, to operate the league. Woods departed his positions with the USFL prior to the 2023 season. 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". Ehrhart would later explain that he was only "trying to protect the league legacy". By 2023, Ehrhart had given his full endorsement to the new league, stating "We have a lot of pride (and) we want them to succeed. They have the resources."
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. In response, the league attorneys claimed "The new USFL registered its intellectual property rights in 2011".
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". The Real USFL, LLC withdrew its suit with prejudice on August 22, 2022.
On March 23, 2022, the USFL announced an initial series of rule tweaks it would implement for its games. The league's rule variations and subsequent changes include the following:
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.
As of September 2023, 320 USFL players earned invitations to workout for NFL teams, with more than 100 NFL contracts signed and more than 40 USFL players started the season either on active NFL rosters or practice squads, including 2022 season MVP KaVontae Turpin, who signed with Dallas Cowboys and finished the 2022 NFL season as a Pro Bowler.
USFL players and staff are 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 (Capella) or in-person (Strayer), giving them the flexibility to pursue associate, bachelor's or master's degrees in business, healthcare, IT and education.
For the 2022 season, player pay structure was $45,000 for Active Roster players, $15,000 for Practice Squad Players, and $600 weekly during training camp. Players also received win bonuses of $850 per win and $10,000 for winning the championship. Players were required to pay their own rent, but the league offered a reduced hotel price at a cost of $75 per room per day, with an option for two players to share a room.
On December 15, 2022, USFL player representatives (United Football Players Association and United Steelworkers) and the league parent company FOX Sports tentatively agreed on a new three-year collective bargaining agreement starting at the 2023 season, six months after the league players voted to unionize. The proposed agreement increases minimum salaries and provides a stronger benefits package than they previously received, and slightly higher than most XFL salaries. USFL players' minimum salaries will be $5,350 per week, up from the current $4,500 per week payout ($2,500 for inactive players) and $150 a week toward 401K contributions, while weekly performance bonuses will be cancelled. During training camp, all USFL players will get $850 a week. The new deal also include a $400 per week housing stipend. For the first year of the CBA, the roster size will stay at 50 (40 active/10 inactive), while from the second year going forward the makeup changes to 42 active and 8 inactive. The proposed CBA includes an annual opt-out option. The agreement was approved by the union members on January 9, 2023.
Main article: 2022 USFL draft
The USFL inaugural draft, also known as the 2022 USFL Player Selection Meeting, was the player selection process to fill the rosters of the eight teams for the 2022 USFL season. The draft was held on February 22–23, 2022, with the results of the 280 players selected released through the USFL's social media channels.
Main article: 2023 USFL draft
The 2023 USFL draft, also known as the 2023 USFL College Draft, was the 2nd annual meeting of United States Football League (USFL) franchises to select newly eligible players. The draft consisted of 2023 draft eligible players and 80 players were drafted.
Fox Sports owns the league and has reportedly committed $150–$200 million over three years to its operations, with plans to attract an additional $250 million from investors. 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.
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.
On March 3, 2022, the league announced fifteen states have approved legal, regulated betting on USFL games.
In December 2021 the Fox Sports-controlled league announced they signed a three-year rights deal agreement with NBC, which involves a rights fee (the agreed-upon fee was never published). It was the first rights fee deal for alternative football league in the 21st century, after both the Alliance of American Football and XFL had a rights deal agreement with major networks, but none got paid for it (the only exceptions were two games involving the Hartford Colonials from the United Football League, which were sold to New England Sports Network in 2010).
In an interview Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch mentioned that the NFL "has been supporting the launch of the USFL".
For the 2022 season NBC and Fox Sports were the league's two official broadcast partners, with Fox carrying 22 games and NBC carrying 21. Telecasts for the 2022 season were produced by Fox Sports and NBC Sports. Fox broadcast 13 regular season games (1 simulcast with NBC), 1 semi-final, and the championship game. NBC broadcast 8 regular season games (1 simulcast with Fox) and 1 semi-final. Peacock broadcast 4 games exclusively and simulcast all NBC games (including the opening game simulcast with Fox and NBC). Other games air on Cable networks USA Network (9 games) and FS1 (7 games).
The opening game was broadcast on April 16, 2022, at 7:30 PM Eastern time on both Fox and NBC. Fox produced the game and NBC produced all studio coverage. It was the first football game to be simulcast across two major American broadcast networks since the 2007 New England Patriots–New York Giants game.
Fox brought back its lead XFL broadcast team from 2020, Curt Menefee and Joel Klatt, for USFL coverage. Kevin Kugler and Mark Sanchez serve as the second broadcast team. Brock Huard reports from the sidelines during selected games. The NBC crew features Jac Collinsworth and Paul Burmeister handling play-by-play duties alongside analysts Jason Garrett, Michael Robinson and Cameron Jordan. Zora Stephenson and Corey Robinson are sideline reporters and Sara Perlman hosts halftime and post-game coverage.
During the 2022 season, Fox also aired a 13-part documentary series called "United by Football: A Season in the USFL" which produced by the league, NFL Films and Fox Sports. The series followed the USFL players and coaches "behind-the-scenes" during their 2022 journey, starting with the inaugural USFL Player Draft in Birmingham, and conclude with the USFL Championship game. The series averaged 720,000 viewers per episode.
The show caused controversy before the first week, as a video clip, posted on social media, of Pittsburgh Maulers head coach Kirby Wilson releasing running back De'Veon Smith due to violating team protocol after asking to have pizza for lunch instead of the chicken salad.
Telecasts for the 2023 season will air on Fox, FS1, NBC and USA Network. Fox will air 17 regular season games and 1 semi-final, NBC will broadcast 9 regular season games, 1 semi-final and the Championship game, and FS1 and USA Network will broadcast 7 games each. Unlike the 2022 season, in order to increase the leagues exposure, Peacock will not air exclusive games. Instead, Peacock will simply simulcast all NBC and USA Network games. An emphasis will also be made on having high-profile events serve as lead-ins to the league, with some games following NASCAR and Major League Baseball broadcasts on Fox or the Kentucky Derby on NBC.
Curt Menefee and Joel Klatt will return as Fox's lead commentary team for USFL coverage. Kevin Kugler and Mark Sanchez serve as the second broadcast team. Brock Huard will report from the sidelines during selected games. Devin Gardner will also appear on select games.
The NBC crew features Jac Collinsworth and Paul Burmeister handling play-by-play duties alongside analysts Jason Garrett, Michael Robinson and Cameron Jordan. Zora Stephenson, Corey Robinson, Lewis Johnson, and Caroline Pineda are the sideline reporters. Colt McCoy, Kyle Rudolph and Anthony Herron are the additional analysts for selected games.
For the 2023 season NBC Sports, FOX Sports partnered with DAZN to broadcast live international coverage of the 14-game schedule, including the playoffs and the championship game (excludes coverage in the U.S. and the 14 countries with separate broadcast deal). In the United Kingdom and Ireland it was broadcast through Sky Sports, in Australia by FOX Sports Australia, in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Sweden by Viaplay in Hungary by Network 4 and in the Philippines by Elite.
|Date||Winning Team||Losing Team||Location||Attendance||MVP||Telecast|
|July 3, 2022||Birmingham Stallions||33||Philadelphia Stars||30||Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium||Canton, Ohio||20,000||Victor Bolden Jr.||Fox||1.52 million|
|July 1, 2023||Birmingham Stallions||28||Pittsburgh Maulers||12||N/A||Deon Cain||NBC||1.16 million|
|Interceptions||Case Cookus and Josh Love||14|
|Passes Defensed||Mark Gilbert||15|
|Return yards||Kick||Derrick Dillon||1,200|
|Field goals||Made||Brandon Aubrey||32|
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