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The NFL is in its offseason, but pro football fans and bettors now have two spring leagues playing their favorite sport for money and glory – the XFL and the USFL – and oddsmakers are making each matchup even more exciting as more and more U.S. states legalize sports betting.
The XFL and the USFL are alike in many ways yet they still share differences worth noting, and here we break down how the two leagues compare in terms of revenue, salaries, viewership, attendance, and ratings as both fight to survive in a world now hungrier than ever for football.
Here we showcase all the different ways these two groups approach the sport and business of pro football on their way to bringing fans and sports bettors the best possible football product.
(2020, partial season)
$7.5 million per year
Average Player Salary
$5,000 per week
$1,000 bonus per win
$5,350 per week
$850 bonus per win
$5,000 per week
$1,000 bonus per win
$5,350 per week
$850 bonus per win
Average Head Coach Salary
QB Brett Hundley, $200k
ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN+, FX
Fox, FS1, NBC, Peacock, USA
1.115 million average viewership per NBC telecast
334k per USA telecast
New Orleans: 1.50
(2022 Season, NBC, USA)
Most of the rules that the XFL and the USFL follow on the field are the same, but here are some of the major differences between how these two leagues of pro football teams will play:
Teams / Divisions / Rosters: The XFL is made up of 8 teams split into two divisions (North and South), each team with a 51-man active roster; the USFL is made up of 8 teams split into two divisions (North and South), each team with a 50-man roster with 40 active and 10 inactive players on game days.
KICK OFFS: in the XFL they kick off from the 30 and only the kicker and returner can move until the ball is caught or after the ball has been on the ground for at least three seconds; in the USFL kickoffs take place from the 25-yard line and the ball is live once it travels 20 yards.
RECEPTIONS: In the XFL, they will play by college rules and players will need to maintain possession with only one foot inbounds for a catch to be considered legal; in the USFL, a reception requires two feet and possession of the ball just as it does in the NFL.
PATS: After an XFL TD, teams can go for one point from the two yard line, two points from the five-yard line, or three points from the 10-yard line; after a USFL TD, teams can kick for one point from the 15-yard line or run a successful scrimmage play from the two-yard line for two points or from the ten-yard line for three points.
CHALLENGES: XFL coaches will be given one challenge per game, but it can be about any possible play including judgment calls; USFL coaches are allowed one replay challenge per game with Replay Command at FOX Sports Control Center in Los Angeles making all replay decisions.
ONSIDE KICKS: The XFL allows onside kicks but in the 4th quarter they also have the option to convert a fourth-and-15 play from their own 25 to retain possession and keep the offense on the field; the USFL allows onside kicks and in the 4th quarter they also have the option to convert a fourth-and-12 play from their own 33 yard line to retain possession and keep the offense on the field.
OVERTIME: In the XFL, tied games at the end of regulation will result in alternating attempts from the opponent's five-yard line; USFL overtime involves a shootout in which each team's offense runs a play against the opposing defense from the two-yard line, three plays each, and each successful scoring attempt receives two points. Ties after that result in sudden death until a winner is declared.
During the XFL’s shortened 2020 season, that league reportedly earned $20 million. Their current season is underway, so all revenue won’t be tallied and reported until well after the Championship game is played on July 2.
The USFL's estimated annual revenue after one season is reportedly $7.5 million, that number bound to increase over time as the league grows and evolves. Money issues tend to be spring football’s biggest enemy, so expect both leagues to maximize their return.
The XFL’s new ownership group is made up of wrestler turned actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, IFBB professional bodybuilder Dany Garcia, and Gerry Cardinale of RedBird Capital.
If there is revenue made in 2023, it will go to them.
The USFL is owned by a company called National Spring Football League Enterprises Co, LLC, which is reportedly a joint venture between Brian Woods and Fox Sports. Any revenue generated by that league will go to them.
The USFL postseason.
But that’s only because the XFL in 2023 has not had a postseason yet but it will begin after all ten games of the regular season are played. The XFL semifinals are scheduled to take place on April 29 and 30 and the league championship will happen on Saturday, May 13.
The USFL’s 2022 Division Finals attracted almost 2 million viewers and averaged a 0.65 rating while the Championship game had 1.52 million viewers and scored a rating of 0.9, promising numbers for a league’s inaugural postseason.
Tough to say.
In 2020, the ownership group led by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson reportedly purchased the XFL and all its teams for $15 million (plus over $9.2 million in debts and payments) – and that was just hours before an auction could take place.
In the USFL, no team has an individual owner. Instead, FOX Sports owns each team under a subsidiary known as National Spring Football League Enterprises. FOX Sports has reportedly committed $150 million over three years to operate the league, with outside investors also being sought.
Which League Is More Internationally Driven, the XFL or the USFL?
The XFL may be relatively new, but according to its marketing it promises to bring a “global professional football league with innovative rules and an enhanced 360-game experience” to fans across the globe.
For the USFL’s inaugural 2022 season, it presented its games in more than 130 countries worldwide. NBC Sports and FOX Sports presented a live, 14-game USFL schedule internationally, including both semifinal playoff games and the championship game.
Expect those efforts by both leagues to be met with open international arms as the world continues to fall more and more in love with watching (and betting on) the game of football.
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The United States Football League (USFL) is a professional U.S. football minor league that serves as a proving ground for players hoping to make it into the NFL. This league which launched in 2022 has no legal connection to the one with the same name that existed in the 1980’s.
The Xtreme Football League (XFL) is a professional U.S. football minor league that serves as a proving ground for players hoping to make it into the NFL. Its 2023 season is the first under its new ownership group of Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, and Gerry Cardinale of RedBird Capital. It’s the third time the XFL brand that was created and originally owned by Vince McMahon has launched.
XFL players will earn $5,000 per week with a potential $1,000 bonus per win; the USFL players will earn $5,350 per week with an $850 bonus per win.
Thanks to the stellar entertainment of the NFL as well as the league parity it prioritizes, the love of American football continues to grow in the U.S. and worldwide. But only about 1,700 active players can suit up in the NFL, so it makes sense to give those who miss that chance another place to play and showcase their skills.
After the covid pandemic, the NFL proved that football can be a television game that fans will tune in for (and bet on) so having the USFL and XFL running during the offseason keeps that intense football fire burning throughout the entire year. That also gives the NFL two pools from which they can draw overlooked talent and that alone could help those two spring leagues live on.
The XFL’s new ownership group is made up of former professional wrestler and actor Dwayne Johnson, pro bodybuilder Dany Garcia, and financier Gerry Cardinale of RedBird Capital.
The USFL is owned by a company called National Spring Football League Enterprises Co, LLC, which is reportedly a joint venture between Brian Woods and Fox Sports.
An XFL player combine was held on June 18, 2022. The 2023 XFL Draft was held from November 15 to 17. Finally, training camps began on January 8, 2023, and the regular season began on February 18, 2023.
The 2023 USFL Draft was also called the 2023 USFL College Draft. This was the 2nd annual meeting of that league’s franchises to select newly eligible players. That draft consisted of 2023 draft eligible players.
There are no plans now for those two spring leagues to compete and since they run back to back a final battle between their two champions seems unlikely.
That said, depending on the growth and evolution of spring football in America, those two leagues could combine forces in the same way the AFL and NFL did back in 1966.
Yes. Though it is technically considered a minor league, the XFL pays its players so by definition it is a professional league.
Yes. In fact, the goal of XFL and USFL players is to showcase their football skills to a national audience in the hopes that NFL scouts and coaches and owners will be watching.
No, that’s according to this statement from the CFL at the end of last year:
"Our talks with the XFL, exploring the potential for collaboration and innovation, have been positive and constructive. While we remain open to finding new ways to work together in the future, we and our XFL counterparts have jointly decided to not pursue any formal arrangements at this time.”
That could all change, of course, in time.
Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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