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How Potential NFL Expansion Could Affect the XFL

The National Football League started off with 14 teams back in 1920, and while we don’t think often of the Columbus Panhandles or Rock Island Independents, the history of this league has seen numerous teams rise and fall. We’re seeing a relatively stable period here in the modern era, and the last expansion team was the Houston Texans back in 2002. I’m not going to map out the entire chronology of teams rising and falling from the last 101 years, but here in 2021 we’re tying the longest period in league history without an expansion team, after the period between ’76 (Buccaneers & Seahawks) and ’95 (Panthers & Jaguars).

If you want to really dig into the subject, be my guest. It’s a long and storied history for another day.

Now, it’s been 19 years since the league added a new franchise, and there appear to be rumblings about growth in the NFL. On a recent airing of “BK & Ferrario”, NFL insider Benjamin Albright spoke on the NFL’s desire to move up to 18-team divisions for a total of 36 in the league.

The 4 sites that had been thrown up there as potential expansion sites to begin with would be London, Toronto, San Antonio and possibly St. Louis.

In light of the NFL moving up to a 17 game slate to increase revenue, it does seem like there is a tangible movement to grow, and the scheduling perks would be a bonus. So what do we make of these 4 cities Albright mentioned, and how could expansion there affect the XFL?

London

We’ve been hearing rumblings about this for years, as the NFL looks to increase its presence in the UK beyond Jaguars games, and I’d love to see it. Logistically it might be tough, unless the new expansion team wants to revive some Concordes to bring that NY > London flight time from ~8 hours down to 3.

I think it would be great to get an overseas team if they can work out the finer details, but I don’t see a way this would impact the XFL beyond blazing a trail for Dany & the Rock’s ambitions for international football.

Toronto

Well, the precedent is there. The other three “Big Four” leagues have teams north o’ the border, from the NBA’s Raptors, to the Blue Jays in the MLB, and the NHL’s Maple Leafs. The MLS even has Toronto FC, Major League Lacrosse has the Toronto Rock, uh, the UFC has Georges St-Pierre? He’s from Montreal, and I’m out of examples but the fact is that essentially every other major sports leagues have franchises in Canada.

I would have loved for the XFL to be the one to break this ground back when a possible CFL partnership was still in the works, but an NFL expansion here seems extremely logical and safe.

So what would this do to the North American Football landscape? The Toronto Argonauts are essentially the oldest pro sports team on the continent, dating back to 1873. How would an NFL team in their home city affect their market? While the Argos are arguably one of the most successful CFL franchises, leaguewide concerns about attendance in the past decade have only been deepened by the pandemic. Though I have no doubt about the faithfulness of Argonauts fans, an NFL team, in the same city, playing at the same time would cut into their market without question.

It would leave the CFL in a tough spot after some tumultuous years in the wake of COVID shutdowns, and while it could serve to bring more attention to football in general, its hard to see how this would be good news for 3 down football. Now, would the 148 year old powerhouse be willing to stick to their guns and duke it out in their home city? I have no doubt about it, but it’d be an uphill battle. The Argos have struggled with attendance more than other teams already, quite possibly because Toronto has so many other sports teams they have to share the limelight with.

An interesting development here could be much less crazy than it sounds at first: the Argonauts could throw in with the XFL. Now, as our very own Josh Davis reported on this summer, it was a possibility floated by Dan Ralph of the Canadian Press. The Argo’s ownership group has taken somewhere in the ballpark of $12 Million in losses on the team recently, and though they are riding high atop the East Division at 8-4 so far this year, the franchise is having business difficulties.

Moving into the XFL’s spring slot could actually be a masterstroke. If Toronto’s hypothetical NFL franchise takes off with fans, it’ll be a city reinvested with football, and they’ll perhaps take more interest in the Argos come springtime. It would certainly be a tough call to leave its home in the CFL, but if an 148 year old team knows how to do anything, it’s survive. Maybe the XFL would give it a new lease on life, and it seems their ownership group: MLSE was at the forefront of partnership talks with the XFL earlier this year.

San Antonio

We heard rumblings that the XFL wanted to move a team into San Antonio, but Dallas and Houston were pretty comfortable homes for the Renegades and Roughnecks. A 3rd NFL team in Texas would sure be something, and San Antonio is a huge market, but I don’t see this affecting the XFL’s plans too much.

St. Louis

Oh boy. In the midst of the city’s lawsuit versus the NFL, this news could change everything. If the NFL is really considering an NFL team back in St. Louis, this could be an interesting settlement to a suit alleging “breach of contract, fraud, illegal enrichment and tortious interference” by Stan Kroenke and the NFL as they moved the Rams to Los Angeles. A new team would go a long way to smoothing things over, it seems, and St. Louis has proved a fanatical football market despite losing the Cardinals to Phoenix/Arizona in 1988, and the Rams in 2016.

Their attendance numbers in the XFL were off the charts as they led the league with over 28,000 fans on average at the Dome. It seems obvious that, though wounded the city of St. Louis would eagerly support a new NFL franchise. In this case however, I believe these teams could effectively co-exist. While fans would be glad to have an NFL team to root for, I doubt this city would ever forget the BattleHawks, a team who chose them, and a team they chose back in 2020.

The Fall/Spring dynamic could work, and this football hungry city could eat it up. I see no reason why an NFL team here would take anything away from the XFL, and while it would be great to see the BattleHawks as the football face of this city, I strongly believe they’ve earned fans for life here.

It will be interesting to see if these rumors solidify in years to come, but an expansion in the NFL seems entirely possible given the current climate. As a football fan, I would love to see it, and as a believer in the XFL, I see interesting possibilities that could rise from such a windfall.

Matt Nagashima has been covering the XFL since before the 2019 Draft, and has witnessed history being made as a Credentialed Reporter for the Dallas Renegades. While he is engrossed with the X's and O's, the roster building and more, it has always been his goal to keep the players first in mind in coverage, showing the human aspect of this sport behind all the action on the field. With Dany Garcia and Dwayne The Rock Johnson now at the helm, he's excited to see all the opportunities that this league will create for players to showcase their talent and make their dreams come true.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Demarius Shelton

    November 10, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    I personally live here in St.Louis and as a lifelong and proud St.Louisan and NFL/XFL/USFL American Pro Football 🏈 Fan I would sincerely love to see my city have two Pro Football teams in two major national American Pro Football 🏈 leagues operating here in the United States as in both the NFL and XFL which will ultimately make St.Louis what it should be and deserves to be as a year round American Pro Football 🏈 City just as other major American Cities such as New York, Washington, Tampa Bay, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, and Los Angeles are with teams in both the NFL and the XFL as well in my view.

  2. Demarius Shelton

    November 10, 2021 at 12:39 pm

    #XFLStLouis!!!!; #NFLStLouis!!!!! #ProFootBallBackInTheGateWayCity!!!!! #StLouisBattleHawks!!!!! #StLouisKnights!!!!! #XFL2023!!!!! #NFL2023!!!!! #GameTime!!!!! #BringItOn!!!!!

  3. Erik

    November 11, 2021 at 5:38 pm

    Mr. Nagashima,
    I’m no journalist myself. However, a few opinions for you. 1. Don’t interject your own opinions (“I’d like such-and-such to happen…”) into your articles. Stick to the facts. It’s wrong to get peoples’ collective hopes up with hearsay and rumors — unless that’s the specific point of the website – a rumor mill. There’s a name for this: clickbait. 2. Actually research your facts. Despite your mention of Benjamin Albright (name dropping as it is), he’s no more an authority on NFL expansion than I am. Was the NFL anywhere close to expanding, this would have been reported all over ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports, and CBS Sports by now. They are broadcast partners of the NFL, and surely despite any bad blood that exists, someone there would not be able to help themselves and would have leaked the news of NFL expansion by now. 3. The NFL has already mentioned publicly that they feel 32 is the perfect number of teams for an entire host of reasons – scheduling, divisions, playoffs, etc. All that being said, you cite reasons in your own article why the expansion cities mentioned are not viable (London and Toronto). So why even bring those up as a premise? Why would you not name more likely cities – Orlando, Sacramento, Birmingham, San Diego, Portland, Oklahoma City, and (yes) even Vancouver and Mexico City (compared to London and Toronto). Every one of the cities in this list is at least as viable if not moreso than London and Toronto (although, even I will agree if Canada gets a team, Toronto has to be high on the list). The NFL considers a lot more than rumor when selecting cities – population, TV market, traffic (surprisingly), and probably even more than that. // Now, all that being said, if your entire purpose was to determine IF the NFL ever did expand, would it impact the XFL, then maybe, just maybe, you have a premise to your pontification. But in order to do that, the XFL has to have teams on the field first. And the way things are going, the XFL looks like it will be back on the field before the NFL expands, if it ever does. I think – and I’m just spit-balling here – it might be more interesting to write a piece on what cities the XFL might choose in their rebirth, and in doing so, would they potentially impact the NFL plans for expansion? That seems a lot more likely given the climate of where things are at the moment.

    For the record, I have no personal beef with you sir. I hope you have a long and successful journalistic career. I just hope your next article contains more facts than opinions and hearsay.

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