What Is the UFL, and How Will It Compete Against the NFL?

Following its inaugural season, here's everything to know about the UFL, a merger of the XFL and USFL.

In November 2023, the USFL and XFL combined forces in what is likely the last viable attempt to make spring pro football work.

The United Football League (UFL), a professional spring football organization with eight teams, began its inaugural season in March 2024.

What Is the UFL?

The UFL is a merger of XFL and USFL that was approved by federal regulators in 2023. The pro football league plays its games during the spring and early summer.

Spring football has long been considered an untapped market for US professional football fans. Several attempts have been made to make it work, including in the 1980s when notable players such as Herschel Walker, Jim Kelly, and Doug Flutie were suiting up in the United States Football League (USFL).

However, the USFL wasn’t sustainable, and it folded in 1985, only to return again in 2022 and 2023.

A rival league, the XFL, tried many outside-the-box ideas in its 2001 season under World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) leadership. The XFL was conceived and led by WWE head Vince McMahon and played its first season in 2001 but shut down before a second season could begin.

It was revived by McMahon in 2018 to begin play in 2020. The seasons were planned to run from February to May, with a 10-game regular season followed by the playoffs.

However, after five weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic ended any chance of success. The league filed for bankruptcy in April 2020.

Actor and former Miami Hurricanes player Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stepped in and, along with business partner and ex-wife Dany Garcia, bought the XFL for a reported $15 million.

The XFL began play again in February 2023 as a football minor league. In late September 2023, it announced plans to merge with the USFL.

The UFL planned to take the best aspects of the USFL and XFL to build a successful league.

How Will the UFL Compete Against the NFL?

The UFL has made it clear that it isn’t attempting to mimic the NFL.

The calendar splits the leagues, with the UFL beginning six weeks after the Super Bowl and ending in mid-June, leaving plenty of time for the NFL to dominate the US professional football media coverage.

Additionally, the UFL features several very different rules from the NFL.

Biggest UFL Rule Differences

In the UFL, the ball is placed at the 20-yard line for kickoffs, whereas NFL kickoffs are kicked from the 35-yard line.

To reduce injuries, the NFL allows for a fair catch anywhere on the field, resulting in the ball being placed at the receiving team’s 25-yard line. However, under the league’s new hybrid kickoff rule, fair catches will no longer be allowed in 2024.

At this time in the UFL, there is not a definitive rule allowing fair catches, making returns a reality on virtually every kickoff.

MORE: UFL vs. NFL Salaries — Comparing How Much the Players Get Paid

Another big difference between the NFL and UFL is the extra point.

In the UFL, teams have three scrimmage play options following a touchdown: a 2-yard line conversion for one point, a 5-yard line conversion for two points, and a 10-yard line conversion for three points.

Other key differences — including the UFL’s allowance of a second forward pass during a play if done behind the line of scrimmage — can be found in the UFL’s official rules.

How Many Teams Are in the UFL?

The UFL had eight teams in its inaugural season. The league is split into two conferences: the USFL Conference and the XFL Conference.

The USFL consists of the Birmingham Stallions, Houston Roughnecks, Memphis Showboats, and Michigan Panthers.

The XFL includes the Arlington Renegades, D.C. Defenders, San Antonio Brahmas, and St. Louis Battlehawks.

Notable UFL Head Coaches

The UFL attracted some notable coaches for its inaugural season. This includes Bob Stoops, the legendary Oklahoma coach who returned to the Renegades after leading them to an XFL championship in 2023. Also, Skip Holtz returned to the Stallions after leading them to back-to-back USFL championships in 2022 and 2023.

Other notable names among UFL head coaches include Wade Phillips, the longtime NFL coach and Super Bowl-winning defensive coordinator, who took over the Brahmas after leading the XFL’s Roughnecks in 2023.

KEEP READING: Who Is Wade Phillips? A Closer Look at the Brahmas’ Head Coach

The Roughnecks, meanwhile, were combined with the USFL’s Houston Gamblers franchise. Curtis “C.J.” Johnson, who served as Gamblers’ head coach, now leads the Roughnecks.

Former NFL tight end Anthony Becht returned for a second season as the Battlehawks head coach, while Mike Nolan and Reggie Barlow also returned as the Panthers’ and Defenders’ head coaches, respectively. John DeFillipo, who led the USFL’s New Orleans Breakers in 2023, took over as the Showboats’ head coach to round out the list.

How Many Games Do UFL Teams Play?

The UFL has a 10-game regular-season schedule (40 total), running from March 30 through June 2.

Then, in June, there are three playoff games — two divisional contests and one championship game. The games air on Fox and the ESPN family of networks, which includes ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC. All of the contests are also available to stream on Fubo.

The full schedule can be viewed on the UFL’s official website.

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