That headline is no typo. The United States Football League, which gave Americans professional football in the spring from 1983 to 1985 — featuring Heisman Trophy winners Herschel Walker, Doug Flutie and Mike Rozier — returns April 16 with eight teams. Two of those teams will be coached by former NFL head coaches. Mike Riley, who was with the San Diego Chargers from 1999-2001, will lead the New Jersey Generals, and Todd Haley, who helmed the Kansas City Chiefs from 2009-2011, is now head coach and general manager of the Tampa Bay Bandits.
If you recognize those USFL team names, it’s because all eight teams in the 2022 version of the USFL have the same team names as the original eight USFL teams: the Birmingham Stallions, Houston Gamblers, New Orleans Breakers and Tampa Bay Bandits will be in the South Division, with the Michigan Panthers, New Jersey Generals, Philadelphia Stars and Pittsburgh Maulers in the North Division.
Games will be played on weekends, with special broadcasts on Fridays and Mondays, The Sporting News reports. But despite their names, teams will not play in the cities they represent. More on that later.
According to a league announcement in January, the USFL will hold a player selection meeting on Feb. 22-23, and training camps will open March 21. Each USFL team will carry a 38-man active roster, plus a seven-man practice squad, and players will receive base compensation and be eligible for victory bonuses. The league has multi-year agreements with NBC Sports and FOX Sports, with plans to nationally televise every game on NBC, USA, Peacock, FOX or FS1.
No surprise there, considering the USFL is “controlled by FOX Sports,” as the league’s website puts it.
Spring football has always been risky proposition. Witness the original demise of the USFL, the World Football League, the Alliance of American Football, the first XFL (and its more recent successor, which stalled when the coronavirus pandemic hit), plus other leagues we can’t even remember. As Sports Destination Management notedlast spring when the USFL announced its return: “No matter how innovative its promoters have thought spring football could be, it does not seem to resonate on a large scale with American fans. In addition to the multitude of leagues that have gone belly-up … there are ongoing problems even with leagues that are still in business, or at least appear to be in business on paper.”
Officials with the 2022 version of the USFL, however, think they’re positioned to survive.
“The USFL is set to host all eight of its franchises in Birmingham, Ala., for its first season. A majority of the games are set to be housed out of the [city’s] new Protective Stadium, with the remaining played out of Legion Field,” reads a typo-riddled article posted on the USFL website with the headline “How the USFL Is Positioned to Do What the Others Couldn’t — Survive.” “The deal with the city will see the city host all eight teams in 2022, and as many as four for the [league’s] second season. The idea is that the USFL would move the teams to their respective cities by the third season. … The USFL’s strategy not only saves money[;] it drops the likelihood of a mid-season stoppage dramatically.”
And in case you were wondering, the Lingerie Football League is still a thing, too. Only now it’s called the Extreme Football League (or X League), and before that it was called the Legends Football League. But here’s the thing: Teams haven’t played a game since the 2019 season.
In late 2019, when the X League was announced — with eight teams playing seven-on-seven games on a 70-yard field — the plan was to begin competition in 2020. NFL Hall of Famer Mike Ditka was even named the league’s chairman. But (thanks or rather, no thanks, to the pandemic) the inaugural X League season was postponed to 2022, and open tryouts were held last month. The 2022 season’s schedule will be unveiled Feb. 22 and feature at least eight teams: Arizona Red Devils, Atlanta Empire, Austin Sound, Chicago Blitz (an old USFL team name, by the way), Denver Rush, Kansas City Force, Los Angeles Black Storm and Seattle Thunder.
The original Lingerie Football League was founded in 2009 and played during the spring and summer with players clad in revealing uniforms that consisted of an athletic bra and underwear. The X League appears to be a more mature version, though, with a mission of “empowering women through opportunity.”
“Everybody sees what’s happening in women’s sport — there’s an incredible momentum forming behind it — and then also see what the NFL has done recently in the past five years in really highlighting the role of women in football,” Mitchell Mortaza, the managing partner of the X League, told SportTechie.com in December. “And lastly, there [is] a void of a major commercial sports league for women’s football. And that’s the void we’re going to be stepping into. Obviously, you have millions of girls around the country that want to play the game that never had that opportunity before. This is that aspirational league for them.”