By now most have seen the official announcement that the USFL is coming back, with plans to kickoff in the spring of 2022.
For those who haven’t, The Spring League CEO Brian Woods is part of the ownership group, and has been working on this for quite some time.
You can trace today’s announcement at least back to the fall of 2020, when The Spring League began it’s session that was aired on Fox Sports networks.
It was reported then that Fox had been at least interested in a minority stake in the league, but that was dependent on fan reaction, and participation.
Since tickets weren’t readily available for those games, nor this year’s South Division in Houston, most of that has been judged on viewership numbers, which despite having little or no promotion, have exceeded league expectations.
Our own Mike Mitchell breaks down those numbers every week, and for a football league, playing in the spring, with minimal online, social media or promotional presence, the stats have been pretty impressive.
The FOX network obviously agrees, as it is part of an ownership group in the newly formed USFL.
Woods and company also spent this spring snatching up some of the old USFL trademarks, including the league name in every variant of logo the 1980s iteration used, and six former teams – not including the Generals TM, which TSL has had since 2019.
With this announcement, it has been mention that The Spring League will continue. But the format in which it will is still in question. It could in theory continue as we now know it, developing players and playing games on the FOX family of networks, or, it could go back to being the pop-up showcases that was when it started.
I would imagine that would depend on Fox’s involvement. If they continue to broadcast the league, no doubt it would stay the same, seemingly working as a farm system for the USFL. But it has not been released whether they will continue to televise the league’s games.
For many, this announcement begs the question, “what does this mean for the XFL?”
That’s something that no one truly knows, at this point. What we do know is that since late last year they have been in talks with the CFL, mainly discussing some type of merger.
While there has been a ton of speculation on the matter, no one with true, intimate knowledge of what is discussed at the table is at liberty to talk about it. So, no one really knows where the two stand.
It would seem that the CFL is primarily engaged in getting the Canadian government at every level to sign off on allowing fans to be at every game they plan to play in 2021.
And since some of the provinces have already seen impressive vaccination numbers, it would appear that we will see them on the field come August.
Also at the forefront in bill C-218, which would finally allow for Canadians to legally engage in single-game betting, which many involved with the league see as a financial windfall, something very important to the fan-dependent group. It’s no secret that the current way the league makes money is not gonna last long-term.
When the XFL announced that it was in talks with the CFL, it also said that they were pausing the plan to return in 2022. This flung the door wide open for another league to step in, and fill the void.
This is my opinion, although many I have shared this with would agree, that this poses a big problem, if there is no merger. A big part of the short-term success of the AAF was its exclusivity. There was no other spring league at that time. And a big reason why they rushed to get started, was they recognized an importance to be at the table first. It would have made it harder for the XFL to see the type of fans they did in 2020, had the AAF not folded.
The same principle applies here. Since it seems like the XFL will not be back – with or without a merger – until 2023, even with the massive group of fans, it would be more difficult to draw what the USFL gains away the next year.
The only way I see the XFL being the hit it was in 2020, is if they complete this merger with the CFL, and/or play on the their calendar. Competing head-to-head would not be ideal.
Not to say it couldn’t be done, but because it doesn’t seem like we’re gonna get football from Dany and Dwayne in 2022, that’s another year that the USFL will have to build momentum.
What would add to the impact of combining forces with the northern brethren, is if they in fact take advantage of the global reach of the CFL. Many of the people I talk to inside the league believes this will be the case. That the possibility that a 3rd international league is involved is a good one.
There are still many pathways to success for the XFL, I am in no way condemning the league. I do however believe that this means a merger is inevitable. I do not believe that the USFL announcement was a surprise for Alpha Acquico, and I believe they have a plan to combat this move by Woods and FOX.
While I don’t believe they were shocked by the announcement, I do think they’ll have something of an answer sooner, rather than later.
For the Love of Football.
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