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How a delayed NFL could impact the XFL’s 2021 season

For the XFL, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. At this point, Week 9 of their regular season would have played out. It would’ve have set the stage for the final week of the regular season and the playoff road to a league championship game. Instead, the 2020 season is no more.

2021 and year two for the XFL was always going to be an uphill battle. Now more than ever, the XFL is going to be facing a difficult challenge in just merely existing and surviving. The league is in standby mode and can’t do much until the world can move forward.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the entire free world to a halt. Civilization is changing before our very eyes. The reality is setting in that there will not be a way ever to go back to the way things used to be. Getting back to normal has vanquished. The best we can hope for is a world where new normal exists.

The sports world is in pause mode right now. The scoreboards are off for the time being. Hopefully, a society exists where they can return. One of the uncertainties and questions among many is, In what form will sports leagues return?

Will sports include fans at their games, and if so, what will that entail exactly? Will the public er on the side of caution rather than show up to large public gatherings?  Sports leagues can no longer exist in the previous world setup. The climate has changed. Sports can only return once society is ready to move forward. Virtually everything has been halted to stop the spread of this deadly pandemic. The goal is to limit the overall damage. So that maybe, society can recover in some form.

If this were a sporting event, the world is losing to the virus by an insurmountable margin. The best, we can hope for is to buy time, so that we can live to play another day. So that this lopsided loss is not our last game ever played.

The world has to get to a point where they can be in a position to put up a fight and compete against this deadly virus. It will mean the ability to protect all citizens with testing, a vaccine, and that full protection is taken through stringent safety protocols followed by all.

The XFL will be last in line when it comes to rejoining the sports world if there is to be one. Sports leagues right now like the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, and others are trying to figure out how or when they can proceed. The leagues are all treading carefully.

The XFL is in a position where they can sit back and see where society and the sports world are before they can ultimately determine if they can get back to a league playing environment. The XFL will have to follow the lead of the other sports leagues. Specifically, the NFL.

The NFL intends to start their regular season as scheduled, but the uncertainty creates a remote chance that the XFL may not play games as soon as February 13th, 2021. The presumed kickoff date for season two.

There’s a strong likelihood that any delay in the NFL season will result in the XFL starting up their 2021 season later. Depending on when the NFL starts up their 2020 season, it could determine whether or not the shift in the XFL’s schedule is a permanent one. 

If an NFL season was pushed further back into 2021, it could very well mean that the NFL wouldn’t be able to start their next season in September of 2021. It would also mean the likelihood that the NFL would have to maintain a new regular-season schedule moving forward.

The reality is that a 16-game NFL season that starts potentially in December, January or February, would not end until June or July—thereby eliminating the possibility of a follow-up NFL season in the early fall.

Unless the XFL wants to run the same time as the NFL, the XFL would be waiting until the NFL season is over to get started. In a sign of us living in an upside-down type world. The NFL and XFL could be playing games on each other’s calendars. With the NFL playing in the spring and the XFL playing their games in the fall of 2021.

Regardless of when the NFL season starts and ends. The XFL’s league calendar will have to adjust and follow suit. 

One of the most substantial parts of the XFL’s setup was their two-year steady and disciplined approach to launching from 2018 to 2020. The XFL was built methodically brick by brick. From the infrastructure to game testing to the overall team structures leading into February of this year. 

The player scouting, signing, and drafting process were well mapped out, and in a sense, the NFL was used as a bridge/guideline. In year one of the league’s launch. The XFL orchestrated eight separate combines in all of their markets. Over 800 pro football free agents worked out for the league’s teams, scouting department, and brain trust.

It all took place during a period of the summer, where NFL 90 player offseason rosters were already in place. Just getting to a world where you can conduct this type of open player showcases will be a hurdle. The XFL may have close to 300 to 400 hundred of their players on 2020 rosters, returning for year two. So perhaps the need to scout as many players live won’t be necessary for year two.

The XFL’s Summer Showcases in 2019 led to the league’s draft in October. The XFL used the NFL’s cutdown day from 90 to 53 players, before the NFL regular season, as its primary source of team building. Hundreds of players cut by NFL teams before their regular season started, ended up on XFL rosters. All along, the XFL used the NFL’s player process to their advantage. Drafting and signing the best possible 560 players, not under contract to NFL or CFL teams. 

Any delay by the NFL will alter how the XFL proceeds moving forward as a league. It also ties in the XFL’s broadcast partners in Fox, ABC, and ESPN. The networks would have to adjust their schedules to the league playing at different points in the calendar. How would the XFL interfere with other sports league properties on ABC/Fox going on at a different time of the year?

As a sports league, the XFL in year one was trying to make its mark and become a respected member of the sports landscape. In their short time, They were succeeding in doing so, but the league was still in their baby steps phase.

The XFL is going to be forced to mature as a league at a quicker rate than they were expected to for year two. For now, the XFL remains a passenger following along for wherever this ride may eventually lead.  Hopefully, it all leads back to the playing field.

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I am a pro football writer who has extensively covered and reported on multiple leagues over the years. I started covering the XFL back in 2001. You can follow me on Twitter @byMikeMitchell



  1. ELS

    April 7, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    Given that the XFL plays in a lot of NFL stadiums how could they play concurrent seasons? The NFL teams are the primary tenants. They would also run into major issues with TV production capacity particularly with Fox.

    • Mike Mitchell

      April 7, 2020 at 4:40 pm

      I agree. That’s why I think that the XFL would have to wait for the NFL season to end. Playing concurrently would be extremely difficult unless the XFL changed their weekend schedule and eliminated any of their shared NFL stadiums.

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