The USFL will kick off its season April 16. No, you are not reading that incorrectly. The USFL is back after making its initial appearance nearly 40 years ago. I know what you’re thinking, we’ve seen the XFL come and go, and come back again. We got excited for the Alliance of American Football, just for that to fold, and indoor football has been a disaster. Why should we be excited about the new incarnation of the USFL?
Well…I certainly can’t force you to be excited and truthfully, I have my skepticism towards the new league as well. However, there is more legit financial backing of the USFL than of the leagues that have come and gone in recent years. FOX is the main entity writing the checks for the league and has supposedly invested over $200 million to keep this thing running for at least three seasons.
There are going to be eight teams playing in the inaugural season from across the country. However, your home team won’t be playing at home. All eight teams will play in Birmingham Alabama, at both Protective Stadium and Legion Field. I guess this is their smart way of budgeting, keeping travel down, and just making sure this thing works. Of course, the massive downside to this is preventing a larger national audience from really investing in any team if they can’t watch them play in their own backyard. The playoff games will move to Canton, Ohio and be played at Tom Benson Stadium at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The eight teams are the Michigan Panthers, Philadelphia Stars, New Jersey Generals, Pittsburgh Maulers, Tampa Bay Bandits, Houston Gamblers, Birmingham Stallions, and New Orleans Breakers.
I think the biggest issue with these startup leagues has been the lack of top talent. Back in the day, the USFL was getting some of the top college stars, such as Herschel Walker, Jim Kelly, and Steve Young, to choose their league over the NFL, but those days are long gone and there will be a massive talent deficit. You can play in the USFL so long as you graduated high school by 2020, and the pay ($45,000 for active roster players, $15,000 for practice squad players) includes a “tuition-free and debt-free” path to a college degree through a couple of for-profit universities.
In this year’s draft, the league decided to hold each round based on position. The QBs all went in round one, the running backs in another, so on and so forth. One other big notice we’ve seen in the other leagues is altering of rules and scoring from the typical NFL fashion. Not too much has been released on that front, but we do know that Mike Pereira is the head of officiating, so I would assume the format should be similar with a few changeups mixed in.
As for who you might know in this league…I don’t know. Maybe your favorite college star will appear on the screen, or some NFL burnout you fell in love with. I can tell you that Jeff Fisher is the coach in Michigan, and you can also see guys like Todd Haley, Kevin Sumlin, and Skip Holtz on the sideline as well. Good luck to the USFL in its rebirth.