With the NFL in offseason mode and the latest version of the XFL in full swing, many eyes are turning to season No. 2 of the USFL. Let’s examine how many teams are in the USFL, as well as other information that might impact the size of the league.
How Many USFL Teams Are There?
There are eight total USFL teams in the 2023 season:
- Birmingham Stallions
- Houston Gamblers
- Memphis Showboats
- Michigan Panthers
- New Jersey Generals
- New Orleans Breakers
- Philadelphia Stars
- Pittsburgh Maulers
Seven of the eight teams that will play this season were part of last year’s long-awaited relaunch. The eighth team — the Tampa Bay Bandits — relocated to Memphis and are now known as the Showboats.
Will the USFL Add More Teams in the Future?
The old USFL of the 1980s played for three years before folding in 1986. The league was plagued by owners anxious to sell, mismanagement, stadium issues, and other factors that doomed the entity just as it was starting to gain momentum.
And “momentum” might be the key here. Fox Sports is investing $150 million over three years in this venture. For sustained growth and financial stability, the league probably needs to show it’s on solid ground after that third year.
When the old USFL launched its first season in 1983, it had 18 teams. We should take note that the current iteration only has eight.
That has to be deliberate. Fewer teams means fewer owners, which makes for a more controlled environment when venturing into this risky and rewarding terrain. Each owner has more power and, thus, more responsibility to the league.
Given the adversity confronting the USFL — including a sustained pandemic that ended the season of its sister league, the XFL, only two years earlier — the debut season could be deemed a success.
Jordan Ta’amu lit up the league with superior dual-threat QB play. A year later, he’s helping lead the undefeated DC Defenders of the XFL. Similarly, Sal Cannella was snatched up by the XFL’s Arlington Renegades last November and presently is tied for fourth in that league in receptions. QBs Kyle Sloter and Luis Perez also became XFL starters.
The NFL also took notice, with various teams locking in contracts with notable USFL performers. For example, the Cowboys signed Generals standout KaVontae Turpin, who dominated the USFL with a 44-540-4 receiving line in 10 regular-season games. He went on to become Dallas’s primary kickoff and punt returner last season.
As for possibly expanding the league, back in 2021 — when the new USFL was still in its infancy — Executive Vice President Daryl Johnston suggested that if the league could successfully enter a second or third season, then expansion would be a distinct possibility. There have been rumors, for example, that Denver and Oakland could be on a shortlist for future expansion.
Smart growth is in the cards. This league wants to expand. It simply needs to safeguard itself against growth for the sake of growth. They have to be strategic, knowing that a new market could result in a meaningful growth of USFL revenue potential and fandom.
Fox Sports’ critically important minority stake serves as a bridge of sorts for this nascent league. A more physical bridge (if we can call it that) was last year’s decision to play in Birmingham, Alabama. This reduced costs, helped unify the brand, and put the league on firmer footing entering year No. 2.
Now they’re taking an important step: playing games in other cities around the country. A slight loss of control is counteracted by the USFL’s enlarged geographic footprint.
This marks a key next step for the USFL, which surely will examine a range of financial and fan-driven metrics in 2023 to determine if and when expansion teams might bolster the league’s long-term prowess.
For now, the USFL hopes it’s on the right track.