Apr 15, 2022 - Sports

Spring football's back with the rebooted USFL

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A great American tradition returns Saturday as yet another spring football league attempts to carve out the part of the calendar not already dominated by the NFL.

Driving the news: The rebooted USFL kicks off tomorrow with a historic simulcast on Fox and NBC (7:30pm ET) — the first scheduled sports event to air on competing broadcast networks since Super Bowl I in 1967.

How it works: Eight teams play a 10-week regular season that takes place entirely in Birmingham, Alabama, with the top two teams in each division advancing to the semifinals.

  • Teams: Birmingham Stallions, Houston Gamblers, New Orleans Breakers, Tampa Bay Bandits (South); Michigan Panthers, New Jersey Generals, Philadelphia Stars, Pittsburgh Maulers (North).
  • New rules: In an effort to ramp up excitement, the league introduced new rules such as three-point conversions, an overtime shootout and an onside kick alternative.
  • Tech innovations: First downs will be determined by electronic chips in the footballs, and there are plans to eventually use footballs that "glow" on the broadcast when they cross the goal line.

The big picture: Spring leagues have popped up like clockwork through the years, and despite little success, they keep on coming. If the USFL's reboot lasts until 2023, it will compete against the XFL — a reboot of a reboot launching next spring.

On a related note ... The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach has an interesting proposal for college football: Move each FBS team's annual "guarantee game" against an FCS opponent to the spring (subscription).

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