Variety is the spice of life, and life is good for American football fans! The third time’s the charm, as the Extreme Football League (XFL) made a comeback in 2023! After its first successful season in 2001, the XFL paused until February 2020, when all was set, but then, unfortunately, Covid put a full stop to everything. But public interest contributed to the XFL preserving, and we’ll even see a 2024 XFL season. The primary difference between XFL and NFL is that XFL aims to provide faster games, which are distinct and more engaging for the player and viewer. Besides the general aim, there are more concrete examples below.
1. Brand recognition
Few brands can stand toe-to-toe and compete with the NFL and its stars. The NFL has everything going for it, from fiery fans to instant recognition of symbols, names, schedules, and teams, and fans can even choose some of the top NFL sportsbooks in the USA to bet on their favorites. XFL has a long way to go in establishing itself as something recognizable, different, and, most importantly, profitable.
Large crowds, teams, and fame bring the financial support necessary to sustain the league. It had a rough start and history, but if recent trends are anything to go by, XFL is slowly catching up. XFL chairwoman Deny Garcia announced in 2023 that XFL is looking to partner with the NFL, where both leagues will work towards bringing the best experience to their viewers.
2. Coaches are allowed challenges
One other, perhaps most noticeable, difference between XFL and NFL is that coaches in XFL can challenge the referee’s calls only once per game. Modern tech has allowed for complete coverage of the field, at any second and from any angle. Referees are still human and can make errors, where even the tiniest details can prevail and alter the course of the game. Coaches can thus challenge any decision and call for playback, where a team can look through every frame and second of the play.
3. The kickoff difference
The kickoff is an iconic part of both leagues, which contains noticeable differences in the XFL. For starters, no one can move until the ball is caught or on the ground for three seconds but the kicker and returner. Since the kickers and returners play a vital part in this game segment, teams investing in player signings and talent can benefit from the kickoff. The kickoff yard line is set to 30 yards in XFL instead of the standard 35-yard line in the NFL. And if you notice that the teams are slightly spread apart in the XFL, or at five yards apart, you’ll notice the other big difference in kickoffs compared to the NFL.
4. Faster gameplay
XFL strives to be faster and more dynamic than the NFL, marketing that as their main difference. In XFL, the team can use a double forward pass, if the first pass didn’t cross the scrimmage line. Catching the ball is also more dynamic, as XFL receivers need to have only one foot inside the bounds. In the NFL, both feet must be firmly on the ground and inside the field, making exciting and acrobatic moves impossible and the game somewhat slower, due to frequent outs. Teams who gained faster runners and receivers from the XFL-USFL merger can thus make exciting plays and capitalize on the difference. To add even more excitement, XFL offensive linemen can move up to two yards during a forward pass.
5. Different time rules
In the XFL, we have the “comeback periods”, which the NFL could someday steal, where the clock stops on any out-of-bounds and similar plays. The clock in the XFL is called a running clock, and the play clock is set to 25 seconds in the XFL, as opposed to the 40-second play clock in the NFL. That play clock gets used during plays that are inbounds, where the play clock stops until someone spots the ball and five seconds are shaved off. But the most distinctive difference between the XFL and the NFL comes during overtime.
Both offenses have only five attempts at a two-point conversion to score the most points. They start from the 5-yard line, and more tries will only be attempted if there is a tie, which continues until a conversion is made. Also, the defenses can’t make any point contributions during overtime in XFL.
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