April 16 is the first regular season of the 2022 version of the USFL. The league began with the draft on February 22. The draft was very unique in that each position was drafted as opposed to everyone being drafted together.
The upstart spring league is hoping to stick around where others haven’t been able to. Frankly, if it wasn’t for COVID, the XFL may still be around (even though it’s coming back in 2023).
So, why will this league work in the long run? There are many reasons the new USFL should succeed in this run, as opposed to the earlier run in the 1980s. Let’s dive in.
The teams will be paid $1.71 million for the season. That’s every player for every game combined: the total compensation for the entire season. When Steve Young signed with the original USFL, he made about half of that amount for just one season by himself.
Fox Sports owns the league, so that ensures television for the league. Even though the network owns the league, they were able to strike a deal with NBCUniversal. There will be games on FOX, FS1, NBC, and USA Network. There’s a potential for games to be streaming only on Peacock as well, but that is unknown right now.
They’re Their Own Product
Let’s face facts. There were two major factors in the downfall of the original USFL. The first was they chased after stars.
Players like Steve Young and Jim Kelly got their starts in the USFL because they lured them with money. However, trying to lure stars from college to a spring football league is unsustainable, especially with the college football season ending in December/January.
Creating a supplemental league for players is the right way to go. It can even serve as a pseudo-developmental league for some of the players to be ready to play in the NFL.
The biggest mistake was trying to compete with the NFL and suing the NFL in the process. That doomed the league, along with the exorbitant salaries they were paying.
According to Mike Mitchell of XFL News Hub, there are three key things in the USFL player contract:
- All players that are in the draft have signed contracts with the USFL, and their contracts end either if they are not drafted, cut, or when the league year ends on December 31, 2022.
- Players have a league option in their contracts. The USFL can exercise the option which signs them through 2023, but doesn’t “guarantee employment” for the 2023 season. Players must be notified by April 30 of the league’s intent to.
- There’s a non-compete clause that players may only leave for the NFL once the season has completed.
Football is America’s New Pastime
Many fans will refer to their love of football as an “addiction”. However, they’re just really entertained by the sport and enjoy it for the spectacle it is. When the original USFL was formed, the passion for the sport was nowhere near where it is now, and baseball was still America’s pastime. So, taking over the spring was a daunting task.
Football has taken hold of that. As a result, spring football can succeed in this new sports landscape, especially with it being just once a week.
Spring Football is Here to Stay…
In the end, all of the factors laid out could mean spring professional fooball is here to stay long term. The USFL should be able to be successful and sustainable.