2:07pm: The new league (name TBD) may be settling on a 12-team setup, GOPHNX.com’s Howard Balzer tweets, adding that this merger will be aimed at taking effect for the 2024 season. Should this rumored plan come to fruition, f our franchises would need to be eliminated. This would mean a third straight year of offseason football in America and a spring league setting up shop in five of the past six years.
This will open the door to questions regarding league schedules, rules and the number of teams that will be part of this revamped operation. But after early shutdowns marred multiple offseason leagues in the recent past, it is interesting the most recent two will stick around as a joint entity.
Talks between the two leagues began in July, following USFL 2.0’s second completed season. While the XFL folded twice and the Alliance of American Football joined the once-Vince McMahon-helmed league in failing to complete a season, the USFL has quietly played out two full campaigns. While not offering talent on the level of the original USFL, this rebooted outfit will make an interesting imprint on the football world by merging with the twice-relaunched XFL.
Dwayne Johnson led the effort for the XFL to return, with he and ex-wife/business partner Dany Garcia reviving the league. The XFL, however, lost roughly $60MM this year. The XFL’s championship game still outdrew the USFL’s, earning a 1.4 rating as the USFL commanded a 1.2 number. Despite the losses, the XFL had planned to come back for another season.
The NFL and AFL officially merged in 1970, but the sides reached an agreement years before. The leagues held their first common draft in 1967 but remained separate in terms of competition from 1967-69. Super Bowls II-IV represented the only on-field AFL-NFL competition from 1967-69. The 1970 season brought reconfigured divisions, with both the Browns and Colts shifting to the newly formed AFC, and schedules that featured regular-season games between the conferences. The USFL-XFL alliance reaching multiple seasons would be a win, given the developments in spring leagues since the original USFL folded after its 1985 season. But a number of questions remain.
XFL 3.0 ran from February to April; the new-look USFL’s season spanned from April to June. Each league featured eight teams. A Houston franchise — the XFL’s Roughnecks and USFL’s Gamblers, respectively — was present in both leagues.Relocations took place frequently in the original USFL, and it is still unknown if this presently unnamed coalition will feature all of its games in home markets. To save on travel costs, both the USFL and XFL used hubs rather than having its teams trek across the country.
Both leagues gave numerous former NFL players additional audition opportunities, with younger talent also using the new platforms as a springboard into chances with the country’s top sports league. Most notably, KaVontae Turpin played in both the USFL and NFL last season, earning All-Pro honors as a return man with the Cowboys. Dallas’ kicker this year, Brandon Aubrey, played in both USFL seasons over the past two years. XFL QBs Ben DiNucci and Reid Sinnett respectively reside on the Broncos and Bengals’ practice squads, and its yards-per-punt leader — Brad Wing — landed a P-squad gig (with the Steelers) six years after he last punted in an NFL game.