Unfortunately for football fans, the 2021 NFL season is officially over. However, the USFL is here to ensure there will be a professional league trying to make waves in the spring for the third time in four years.
Ahead of the USFL’s first season (technically speaking), now feels like the perfect time to preview everything football fans need to know about the new league.
What are the basics of the USFL?
The United States Football League, or the USFL, is an eight-team professional football league. Four teams — the Birmingham Stallions, Houston Gamblers, and Tampa Bay Bandits — will play in the South Division. The Michigan Panthers, New Jersey Generals, Philadelphia Stars, and Pittsburgh Maulers reside in the North Division.
If those names sound familiar, it’s because all eight played in the original USFL, the alternate league that held games in the 1980s. However, the similarities end there; this is an entirely new league, at least from a legal standpoint. As a result, records are not expected to transfer over from USFL 1.0 to its modern counterpart.
The USFL will hold 40 regular-season games over 10 weeks. Unlike the original USFL, all eight teams will play their home games in Birmingham, Alabama. Some games will take place at Legion Field and others at Protective Stadium.
So, wait, the teams are all in certain cities, but they’re only playing in Alabama?
That is correct. The decision to hold all games in Birmingham will certainly cut down on travel.
Although this idea sounds radical, The Spring League has used a similar strategy in recent years. However, the Spring League’s current teams do not have a city or state’s name attached to the branding. Other alternate leagues, including the revamped XFL, had a certain amount of teams playing in different cities as opposed to having every squad in one place.
What are the USFL’s rules?
Obviously, the USFL will follow most of football’s basic rules. Two teams, and the team that has more points when the game ends wins. Simple, right?
Alright, yes, the USFL does have some unique rules that neither the NFL or college football have. The USFL-exclusive rules include:
- Scoring teams have a third option to attempt an extra point, and a successful scrimmage play from the 10-yard line equals three points;
- A team will retain possession if they convert a 4th-and-12th from a team’s 33-yard line after scoring;
- In overtime, each team’s offense will alternate plays against the opposing defense from the 2. Each successful scoring attempt is worth two points, and the team with the most points after three plays wins. If the score is tied after each team runs three plays, the attempts will become sudden death. There will be no ties.
Other, smaller rules include each kickoff will occur at the 25-yard line, teams can have two forward passes from behind the line of scrimmage, and the penalty for defensive pass interference will typically mimic the NCAA rule. In other words, there will be no 50-yard completions via pass interference. ESPN and the Associated Press shared the the complete list of noteworthy rules.
How does the USFL postseason work?
Four teams, two in each league, will make the postseason. Rather than play the games in Birmingham, the USFL will briefly move operations to Canton, Ohio, and hold the three playoff outings at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
The USFL postseason is tentatively slated to begin play on Saturday, June 25.
Where can I watch USFL games?
The good news for football fans is they won’t need to look too far to find the USFL on TV. Fox and NBC will each televise the new league’s games in its inaugural season.
As of publication, neither network had announced its broadcast teams. More information is expected to become available in the coming weeks.
Would I know any players who are in the USFL?
The majority of players selected in the inaugural USFL draft fit into three categories. First, there were the players who may have briefly played in the NFL but never stuck around as starters or contributors. Bandits receiver John Franklin III, who played receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019, is one such example.
Next are players who may have spent time in NFL training camps but spent time in other professional leagues, including the Alliance of American Football, Canadian Football League, and the XFL. Gamblers safety Andrew Soroh, who spent part of the 2019 and 2020 preseasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, fits into this category. The Florida Atlantic product played for the XFL’s New Jersey Guardians in 2020.
Finally, there are the players who haven’t yet played in the NFL but have participated in other professional leagues. Remember De’Andre Johnson, the former Florida State quarterback who starred on Netflix’s Last Chance U? After spending time in The Spring League, Johnson is taking his talents to the Generals.
What about coaches?
Each of the USFL’s eight coaches is extremely qualified, and many have been head coaches at either the NFL or college level. Michigan Panthers head coach Jeff Fisher led the Tennessee Titans to Super Bowl 34 and currently ranks 11th on the NFL’s all-time win list.
Larry Fedora, who runs the Breakers, went 34-19 at Southern Miss from 2008-11 and led North Carolina to four straight bowl games from 2013-16. Gamblers head coach Kevin Sumlin, who most recently held a head coaching gig at Arizona in 2020, currently owns a 95-63 record at the Division I level.
Bandits head coach Todd Haley went 19-26 in three years leading the Kansas City Chiefs’ head coach. Former Oregon State head coach Mike Riley is leading the Bandits, and longtime NFL Europe head coach Bart Andrus is in charge of the Stars.
Skip Holtz, who led Louisiana Tech to a bowl game every year from 2014-20, will guide the hometown Stallions. That only leaves Kirby Wilson, a longtime NFL running backs coach, as the only first-time head coach. The 60-year-old is overseeing the Pittsburgh Maulers.
Is Donald Trump involved with the new USFL?
As of publication, there is no reason to believe that Trump, who owned the original USFL’s New Jersey Generals, is involved with the new league. Only time will tell if he latches onto the modern Generals and shows his support on Truth Social, his new social media platform.
Will we see Antonio Brown play in the USFL?
Considering that Brown seemingly mocked the USFL in a January interview and said he’s “played football at the highest,” the odds should be against seeing the troubled wideout in the new league.
However, this is Antonio Brown we’re talking about here. Would anyone really be surprised if he signed with the Stallions in Week 2 and caught three touchdowns in his first game?