The new version of Vince McMahon’s XFL has gotten off to a solid start. While the level of play will certainly never match the NFL, the games have been entertaining to watch. People are showing up to the stadiums and the broadcast numbers have been solid.
The XFL has a few different rules than what people are used to seeing in the NFL or NCAA football, but that’s part of what Vince McMahon and commissioner Oliver Luck are hoping will draw even more attention to the league. One of the different things is how overtime is contested. The XFL has gone in a completely different direction and it could prove to be quite entertaining.
How overtime works in the NFL
The NFL overtime period has undergone a few changes in the last decade or so. What used to happen was that following the coin toss, the first team to score (field goal, touchdown, or safety) would automatically win the game. That’s not the case these days. Under the current system, both teams are given the chance to possess the football, unless the team that first receives the football scores a touchdown on its opening possession.
The overtime period was shortened from 15 minutes to 10 in 2017. If both teams score the same amount of points on their opening possessions, the game moves to a sudden-death system. There can still be ties in the regular season.
The XFL overtime rules are closer to the NCAA than the NFL
Wanting to get away from ties, NCAA Football first started tweaking its overtime format in 1996. Under the current format, both teams are guaranteed an offensive possession. Starting at the 25-yard line, regular rules apply as a team retains the ball until it scores or they turn the ball over. The other team is then given possession, also starting at the 25, and the same rules apply. If the score is still tied, the game goes into a second overtime.
Starting with the third overtime, teams are forced to attempt a two-point conversion if they score a touchdown. A new rule set in 2019 states that if the game gets to a fifth overtime, teams would alternate attempts at two-point conversions until a winner is decided. The XFL is closer to the NCAA on how overtime is contested, with a slight tweak.
How overtime works in the XFL
Overtime will certainly look different in the XFL. It will actually look more like hockey or soccer as the league has decided on a shootout-style format. In the NFL, a team can lose in overtime without ever touching the football on offense. That won’t be the case in the XFL.
There are five “rounds” to the XFL overtime. Each round will consist of just one offensive play per team. The offensive team will start at their opponent’s five-yard line and attempt to get into the endzone. If they succeed, they’re awarded two points. If they fail, they get zero. The other team does the same and whichever team has scored the most points after five turns is declared the winner.
If one team is mathematically eliminated (one team scores three times and the other hasn’t scored), the remaining rounds aren’t played. If the score is tied after five rounds, a sudden-death format is used until one team scores and the other doesn’t.