The United States Football League was the most popular spring league in football, emerging as a viable competitor to the NFL in the early to mid-1980s. Nearly 40 years later, the USFL is planning to make a major comeback.
The USFL announced its re-emergence Thursday with a return in the spring of 2022. The league plans a minimum of eight teams for its first season and will retain rights to key original team names — like the New Jersey Generals, Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars. Memphis Showboats and Los Angeles Express.
“I’m extremely passionate about football and the opportunity to bring back the USFL in 2022 was an endeavor worth pursuing,” said Brian Woods, co-founder of the new USFL. “We look forward to providing players a new opportunity to compete in a professional football league and giving fans everywhere the best football viewing product possible during what is typically a period devoid of professional football.”
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More information on the USFL, including cities, teams, head coaches, and game schedules, will be announced at a later date. Fox Sports will serve as the broadcast partner for the league.
The USFL originally debuted in 1983 and lasted three seasons. The league launched the careers of Hershel Walker, Reggie White, and many others due to competitive salaries that trumped what NFL players were currently making. No hard salary cap led to unsustainable payrolls that contributed to the league’s destruction. The league started with 12 teams and had a territorial draft, to load up rosters with familiar local collegiate stars to attract fans.
Eventually shutting down in 1986, the USFL voted to move from a spring to fall schedule to eventually compete with the NFL — an attempt to force a merger between the leagues. The USFL won an antitrust lawsuit against the league as the NFL violated anti-monopoly laws, but the USFL won just $1 — and shut down in the ensuing months.
This version of the USFL will be intriguing as it is scheduled to compete with the rebranded XFL, which is also scheduled to begin play in 2022.