No need to adjust your television screens: The USFL is, in fact, back.
After a preliminary announcement that the USFL would return in the near future, the league is set to return to play this spring.
With eight teams returning to the gridiron, the league hopes to become a spring success where other recent leagues have failed: Both the Alliance of American Football and the rebirth of the XFL attempted to follow suit.
Now, the Fox-owned football league hopes to buck that trend. Here’s what you need to know:
When will the USFL return?
The USFL return will be in April 2022, and the league hopes to become the latest in a recent flurry of football leagues (the AAF and XFL) to stake a claim in the spring. The season will run from mid-April to mid-June, with playoffs following that.
Games will be played on both Saturday and Sunday, with special broadcasts airing on Friday and Monday.
“We are extremely fortunate to have this extraordinary team of experienced executives to guide the new USFL’s development as we move toward launch this spring,” said FOX Sports CEO and Executive Producer Eric Shanks, who will serve as chairman of the USFL’s board of directors.
The original USFL was founded in 1982 and folded in 1986 after it tried to challenge the NFL with a fall schedule.
Another league under the same banner tried for a comeback in 2010, but plans fell through.
What are the teams in the USFL?
The announcement on Nov. 22 indicated that there are eight teams returning from the prior iteration of the USFL:
- Birmingham Stallions
- Houston Gamblers
- Michigan Panthers
- New Jersey Generals
- New Orleans Breakers
- Philadelphia Stars
- Pittsburgh Maulers
- Tampa Bay Bandits
The teams will be split into two divisions, the North and South:
North: Michigan Panthers, New Jersey Generals, Philadelphia Stars, Pittsburgh Maulers
South: Birmingham Stallions, Houston Gamblers, New Orleans Breakers, Tampa Bay Bandits
The teams will eventually play in their home markets, but will initially play at the University of Alabama Birmingham. Teams will play division rivals twice (six games) and the rival conference once, for a total of 10 games.
The top two teams in each division face off in a semi-final, and then the division winners will square off in the championship game the following week.
The original USFL held 18 teams and played a spring schedule.
What is the USFL?
The United States Football League played three spring football seasons from 1983 to 1985. The 1983 season featured 12 teams, mostly in major markets. The league expanded to 18 teams in 1984 then contracted to 14 teams in 1985.
Originally viewed as an eventual competitor to the NFL, the league folded in 1986 after winning an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. The lawsuit would harm the league more than help it, as it lost $136 million during the process.
The USFL made a big initial splash when the New Jersey Generals signed Heisman Trophy running back Herschel Walker from Georgia. Walker was the league’s biggest star, and he rushed for 1,812 yards and 17 touchdowns in 1983.
Walker wasn’t the only college superstar who chose the USFL over the NFL. Pro Football Hall of Fame players such as Jim Kelly, Reggie White, Steve Young and Gary Zimmerman started in the USFL. George Allen, Bill Polian, Sid Gillman and Marv Levy also were involved in the league.
Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie signed with the USFL over the NFL after winning the award in 1984.
How much do USFL players get paid?
There’s no initial salary information for USFL players, but it’s safe to assume they won’t be paid like NFL players. In fact, far from it.
For comparison, the average XFL player salary was paid $55,000, but higher-paid quarterbacks earned nearly half a million dollars.
AAF players earned a salary of $70,000 for their first year, and would sign a minimum of three-year, non-guaranteed contracts worth $250,000.
Will the USFL keep the same rules?
The league has yet to introduce rules for the upcoming season, but the league hired former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira to lead the league’s officiating arm.
As is custom with these new leagues, the USFL promises to be “innovative.” We’ll see how that works out.