USFL, XFL announce merger, formation of new spring football league: The UFL

USFL, XFL announce merger, formation of new spring football league: The UFL

Dwayne Johnson will be one of the principals in the new merged UFL. (Sam Hodde/Getty Images)

Spring football enters a new chapter in 2024, as the USFL and the XFL have formally announced plans to merge and begin play.

The combined league, to be known as the United Football League, will begin play on Saturday, March 30, 2024. Leadership of the new league will combine the operations of the former leagues. Russ Brandon, former president and CEO of the XFL, and Daryl Johnston, former USFL President of Football Operations, will serve in the same roles at the UFL. Dwayne Johnson, who helped found the new version of the XFL, is among other investors involved with the new league.

The initial game will feature the two champions of their respective leagues: the USFL's Birmingham Stallions and the XFL's Arlington (Texas) Renegades. Further teams to be imported over from the former leagues are yet to be announced.

Officials from both leagues have praised spring football as a way for certain players to showcase their skills for a potential jump to the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys' Brandon Aubrey and Kavonte Turpin, for example, both had successful USFL careers before leaping to the NFL. For other players, spring football offers an opportunity to get in one last season of football before transitioning to life off the field.

On a larger scale, though, spring football also has substantial value as a broadcast asset. Both Fox and ESPN are involved in broadcasting the UFL. The league will provide inventory for both Fox and ESPN during a relatively quiet time on the sports calendar, when baseball is still in its early days and the playoffs of the NBA and NHL haven't yet hit full speed. Factor in gambling, and spring football is a viable program, even if it does only a tiny fraction of the NFL's ratings numbers.

According to the Washington Post, five XFL teams — the D.C. Defenders, Houston Roughnecks, San Antonio Brahmas, St. Louis Battlehawks and Arlington Renegades — will join three USFL teams, the Birmingham Stallions, Memphis Showboats and Michigan Panthers.

That leaves several teams — the XFL's Orlando Guardians, Seattle Sea Dragons and Vegas Vipers, and the USFL's Houston Gamblers, New Jersey Generals, New Orleans Breakers, Philadelphia Stars and Pittsburgh Maulers — will be dissolved, with the players under contract to those teams subject to a dispersal draft.

“From day one, our mission has been to expand the game of football and be a league of opportunity, culture and innovation," Johnson said in a statement announcing the new league. "As we come together to create the UFL, we can build something powerful, exciting and very cool for football fans — a spring league with lasting impact for all the players with a dream to play pro football and the ‘hardest workers in the room’ mentality to make their dreams come true.”

The first version of the USFL began play in the early 1980s, but dissolved following a failed attempt to move to the fall and go head-to-head against the NFL. The XFL began play in 2001 but quickly faltered; a second version of the XFL was obliterated by the COVID-19 pandemic.


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