Almost 40 years after the league began, the USFL is set to return in spring 2022. The league, which folded in 1986, will feature some of the original franchises.
History of the United States Football League
In 1965, a New Orleans-based businessman named David Dixon, recognized a gap in the professional football market. In the spring and summer, football fans essentially had no way to get a fix of their favorite sport.
The NFL would be in their offseason, as would college teams. So, Dixon came up with the USFL, or the United States Football League. For the duration of its existence, the USFL was relatively successful.
This is especially true when you consider some of the other leagues that have come up and tried to follow their model in the following years. For example the XFL, who are also ready for a 2022 return, just didn’t have the same appeal.
The USFL operated at a time, 1983, when the NFL’s control over the market wasn’t nearly as strong as it is today. The league actually featured individuals like Steve Young, Jim Kelly, and Reggie White.
In fact, the USFL had the highest paid football player in 1985. Herschel Walker, the former Heisman trophy winner was a member of the New Jersey Generals, owned by none other than ex-President Donald Trump, where he would bring home $1.5 million.
However, the strength of the league soon became its weakness. The lack of a hard salary cap sent teams into financial difficulties as player payrolls skyrocketed, a similar problem to the one that European soccer clubs have gone through.
On top of this, prior to the 1986 season, the league decided it would try to compete with the NFL and play in the fall. Trump actually took the NFL to court in an antitrust lawsuit which he would win, but receive only $1 in damages.
USFL Set for 2022 Return
The lawsuit, though they won it, was the end of the USFL. That is, at least, until yesterday when it was announced that the league would be attempting a spectacular comeback.
A professional football league that is calling itself the USFL is bringing back the name and the logo and has the rights to the names of the league’s former teams. The USFL folded in 1986. Fox is the minority partner and official broadcaster. pic.twitter.com/iGfNRvmWco
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 3, 2021
The plan is to bring back at least 8 of the original teams, to which they still hold the rights, and kickoff in spring 2020. It is likely that the XFL returns around the same time, so the 2 leagues could be in direct competition.
“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 league’s reboot.
“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.”
The league has a broadcast deal with FOX Sports, who seem excited to have some football programming in the NFL’s offseason.
Complete List of Original USFL Teams
- Arizona Wranglers (1983, 1984)
- Arizona Outlaws (1985; result of Arizona/Oklahoma merger)
- Birmingham Stallions (1983–1985)
- Boston Breakers (1983)
- New Orleans Breakers (1984; moved from Boston)
- Portland Breakers (1985; moved from New Orleans)
- Chicago Blitz (1983, 1984)
- Denver Gold (1983–1985)
- Houston Gamblers (1984–1985)
- Jacksonville Bulls (1984–1985)
- Los Angeles Express (1983–1985)
- Memphis Showboats (1984–1985)
- Michigan Panthers (1983–1984; merged with Oakland for 1985 season; won 1983 championship)
- New Jersey Generals (1983–1985)
- Oakland Invaders (1983–1985; merged with Michigan for 1985 season)
- Oklahoma Outlaws (1984)
- Philadelphia Stars (1983–1984; won 1984 championship)
- Baltimore Stars (1985; moved from Philadelphia; won 1985 championship)
- Pittsburgh Maulers (1984)
- San Antonio Gunslingers (1984–1985)
- Tampa Bay Bandits (1983–1985)
- Washington Federals (1983–1984)
- Orlando Renegades (1985; moved from Washington)