In a groundbreaking development for the world of professional football, the XFL and USFL are reportedly engaged in advanced discussions to merge their respective leagues, according to three sources with knowledge of the situation, as reported by Axios. This potential merger represents a significant move that could reshape the landscape of non-NFL professional football leagues in the United States.
XFL and USFL merger proposal
The merger, which would be structured as a merger of equals, is contingent on regulatory approval and aims to materialize before the start of the 2024 seasons. Fox Corp. currently owns the USFL, while the XFL is under the ownership of the charismatic Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, along with his business partner Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital Partners. While the specifics of the merger remain shrouded in secrecy, sources suggest that game broadcasts for the combined league could be shared between Fox and XFL media partner Disney. It is still uncertain whether the USFL’s existing broadcast agreement with NBC will continue under the merged entity.
An official announcement of this groundbreaking deal is expected in the coming days, signaling a significant moment for both leagues and their fans alike.
The history of alternative professional football leagues in the United States has been marked by numerous attempts and eventual failures. The original USFL, founded in the 1980s, briefly competed with the NFL and succeeded in attracting future football luminaries such as Herschel Walker and Steve Young. However, the league ultimately folded in 1985.
More recent attempts at spring football leagues, such as the Alliance of American Football (AAF) in 2019, have experienced short-lived success and faced challenges. The NFL also experimented with NFL Europe, a developmental league from 1989 to 2007, before eventually discontinuing the league in favor of international games.
XFL and USFL financial status
In terms of financial performance, reports suggest that the USFL has managed to maintain profitability, with plans to invest further in spring football. In contrast, the XFL, under Johnson’s ownership, incurred substantial losses of approximately $60 million during its first season, according to Forbes. Both leagues struggled to attract substantial viewership, with average game viewership figures slightly exceeding 600,000 for each league. The USFL’s championship game garnered 1.2 million viewers, while the XFL’s season-ending game attracted 1.4 million viewers.
The XFL’s journey has been marked by revival and setbacks. Initially launched by WWE’s Vince McMahon in 2001, the league had a brief existence, followed by a reboot in 2020, which was prematurely halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dany Garcia, and RedBird Capital Partners acquired the league out of bankruptcy for $15 million, breathing new life into it in the spring of the following year. Notably, many players from the XFL were subsequently signed by NFL teams.
Meanwhile, the USFL, after its original iteration in the 1980s, returned to the scene in 2022 under Fox’s ownership. The league employed a hub model in its first season, with teams sharing stadiums. In the second season, teams played in various stadiums, departing from the hub model.
XFL and USFL Relationship with the NFL
One significant aspect that remains unresolved is the fate of players transitioning from the merged league to the NFL, as both the XFL and USFL have seen players make successful leaps to the NFL. An existing developmental partnership between the NFL and the XFL would also be subject to adjustments if the merger proceeds.
An additional challenge for the merged league is reconciling the differing schedules of the XFL, which typically begins in February, and the USFL, which traditionally starts in April. The details of this merger will undoubtedly be crucial in determining the future success of a united spring football league.
While both leagues are yet to comment officially on the merger discussions, it is clear that the potential fusion of the XFL and USFL could usher in a new era for professional football, offering a formidable alternative to the NFL. Fans eagerly await further details and an official announcement, as the fate of spring football hangs in the balance.