Starting out the year there’s no way I could have predicted that we’d learn that the USFL would be returning. The announcement came roughly halfway through The Spring League season on FOX, which was also the first TSL season that would have every game televised.
This may seem strange to announce a new league during another spring league’s season, but there is more to the story.
The new USFL would be jointly owned by FOX and TSL founder Brian Woods. In fact, Woods’ hinted towards the news shortly before The Spring League season kicked off telling Dave Griffith of FOX 59 Indianapolis:
We have bigger plans behind the scenes right now with FOX, that we’ll be announcing in the upcoming weeks… in terms of 2022 and beyond.”
Some were aware that Woods’ had acquired some of the USFL trademarks, but none expected it to actually become a reality. That was until June… when it did.
The USFL is back! Catch all the action next year on FOX Sports.
Listen as @USFLOfficial’s iconic #22 @DougFlutie weighs in on the league’s return in 2022. pic.twitter.com/K0Hw0N54rp
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) June 3, 2021
The reveal took place via a press release on June 3rd, but at the time details were slim. Beyond the fact that we knew that FOX was financially involved, a lot was left to be learned. It mentioned they were targeting at least eight franchises, but no mention of team names or cities.
The league will target a minimum of eight teams and deliver high-quality, innovative professional football to fans throughout the spring season.
Although we didn’t know the teams just yet, trademarks gave us a clue at what might be coming. At the time of the reveal, all of the USFL trademarks were registered under The Spring League, LLC. The identities that were registered were a mix of the classic USFL franchises and variations for different cities across the country.
- Austin Outlaws
- Austin Gamblers
- Austin Renegades
- Austin Wranglers
- Austin Stallions
- Arizona Outlaws
- Birmingham Stallions
- Boston Breakers
- Jacksonville Bulls
- Orlando Renegades
- Portland Breakers
- San Antonio Gunslingers
- Washington Federals
- Arizona Wranglers
- Baltimore Stars
- Chicago Blitz
- Dallas Stallions
- Denver Gold
- Houston Gamblers
- Los Angeles Express
- Memphis Showboats
- Michigan Panthers
- New Orleans Breakers
- New Jersey Generals
- Oklahoma Outlaws
- Philadelphia Stars
- Pittsburgh Maulers
- Saint Louis Invaders
- Tampa Bay Bandits
Clearly, this gave the new league a lot of choices when it came to where to host their new franchises. But, we’d need to wait just a bit longer to officially learn which teams would be returning.
Later in June we learned that former Houston Roughnecks president Brian Michael Cooper would leading a team of lawyers representing the new USFL. Bloomberg Law reported:
Cooper is now leading a team of lawyers from Frost Brown Todd representing The Spring League LLC and its founder, CEO, and general counsel Brian Woods, the latter told Bloomberg Law in an email. Woods, whose five-year-old Spring League serves as a developmental league and showcase for football players seeking opportunities in the NFL, CFL, and other professional leagues, is a co-founder of the new USFL.
Considering Cooper’s background in law and hands-on work with a league building from the ground-up, this felt like a perfect fit.
Even though the league was just announced, June was a big month for the USFL. It wasn’t too long after the news that we heard that Birmingham City Council President William Parker was interested in bringing a USFL franchise to his city. Naturally, this made sense. Birmingham has had a storied history with spring football, going as far back as hosting the Birmingham Stallions of the original USFL.
To this date Birmingham still hasn’t been rewarded an NFL team, but they have hosted the USFL, XFL (2020), UFL and AAF. With a new league on the market, it looks like they were ready to capitalize.
I’m excited about what this opportunity could mean for this city and all the people who love football here,” President Parker said.
It was at this point that the league went dark, it was many months until we heard more news about the 2022 season.
Then, October came and everything changed. First, we heard reports that the USFL was in talks with reps from Jefferson County and Birmingham, AL to host the 2022 season. It seems that Parker’s enthusiasm paid off, and he was able to gain the attention of the league.
The reports outlined a proposal that the USFL had made to the city, which shed a lot of light on the leagues plans. The proposal showed that the USFL would host all eight teams in Birmingham for 2022, with as many as four in 2023. The idea would be that all eight teams would report to their respective cities by the third season.
The deal would see a majority of the games take place at the cities newest facility, Protective Stadium. Additionally, Legion Field would home some of the matchups as well as serve as a facility for training camps.
We also heard the first details that the FOX owned USFL would also be planning to split their broadcasting duties with NBC. The proposal would see the city receive two showcases per game, which is huge exposure for Birmingham on a national scale.
As far as kickoff, it was mentioned that the league was targeting April 15th, 2023 with a 10-week season and two semi-final playoff matchups. This would lead to the USFL Championship taking place July 3rd.
Later that month we also saw the debut of the USFL online shop, which at the time didn’t have a lot to choose from. But, this was a start in the right direction. The shop has continued to add new merchandise since they opened, but we expect to see a lot more added as we get closer to the season. Especially as the USFL reveals the team jerseys and game balls.
When the shop did open, it seemed as if they may have revealed four of the new franchises that would be returning. With the debut we saw merchandise for the Birmingham Stallions, Philadelphia Stars, Pittsburgh Maulers and New Orleans Breakers.
We’d end up learning about the franchises, but just not quite yet.
Midway through October we started getting more progress reports on the USFL’s plans in Birmingham. First, we saw that the league had reached a tentative agreement with the city to host the season. Then, it was on to funding and finalizing the deal.
According to the agreement, the city of Birmingham will receive the revenue obtained from the stadiums. In turn, the league is saving a bundle by keeping all of their teams in one local. The city will also be seeing other revenue from the USFL staff and players, which would total more than 40,000 hotel nights over the 12-week season.
At the end of the discussions Jefferson County expected the costs of hosting the USFL in 2022 to be roughly $3.6M. It didn’t take long for them to secure the funds. First we saw the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau board agree to commit up to $2M, with the BJCC covering the rest of the costs.
With the funds secured, it was on to the legal side of things to get the deal finalized. This is about the time we learned that the USFL would be targeting March first to begin training camps, which would give the teams about six weeks to learn the programs before hitting the field.
This may not seem like a lot of time, but in fact it’s more than a lot of the spring league’s that came before it afforded their players and personnel.
The central hub funding wasn’t the only thing we learned about. We also found out that FOX was setting aside $150M to fund the USFL over the first three seasons. FOX seemed to be setting the new USFL up for success. Not only did it have a broadcast partner as an owner, it had funds and strategy to give it a great opportunity to stick around.
With the location seemingly in the bag, the USFL really ramped up in November. First we saw the league secure @USFL on all major social media platforms. This may seem small, but this is very important in the modern days of legitimacy on the internet. The XFL has hit the field, and working towards a comeback, and they’re still trying to secure @XFL on Twitter.
This not only makes it easier for fans to find the USFL online, but it will help them determine the official accounts. With the new social media accounts, we also got a new USFL website. There wasn’t a lot there, but it was definitely and upgrade from what we had prior. Beyond the facelift, we did get confirmation that the league would have eight teams, kickoff in April and be housed out of a central location.
Why make the updates? Well, it seems that they knew news was around the corner. Later in the same week we had the USFL announce their first set of executive hires.
Also, Fox Sports CEO/Exec Producer Eric Shanks will serve as chairman.
Brian Woods, the former CEO of The Spring League, will become president/football operations.
— Ben Fischer (@BenFischerSBJ) November 17, 2021
Coming in to serve as President of Football Operations was TSL founder Brian Woods. Joining him were some familiar faces, and great names to have in a startup. Daryl Johnston would come in as EVP Football Operations, Mike Pereira as Head of Officiating, Edward Hartman as EVP Business Operations and Erik Shanks to serve as member of the board.
These names definitely gave the USFL a little more legitimacy in the eyes of the fans online, but they weren’t done just yet.
Starting out the next week the USFL social media accounts went active and we learned that all eight team names and logos would be revelaed live on The Herd.
8 teams. 12 weeks. This spring, a new era dawns.
You won’t want to miss tomorrow's episode of @TheHerd 👀
📺 FS1 | 12p – 3p ET pic.twitter.com/r11G5JaD5U
— USFL (@USFL) November 22, 2021
As promised, the following day Colin Cowherd revealed the new USFL franchises, as well as the northern and southern divisional split.
Needless to say, November was a huge month for the league. After months of not hearing much, they really went all out to give the fans what they wanted; more USFL news.
Moving to December, the league did not take the gas off the pedal. Ever since we saw the proposal from the USFL to Jefferson County, a lot of fans were wondering what happened with the reported deal with NBC. Well, it seemed that we just needed to wait until the right time for the league to make it official.
Halfway through the month the USFL put out a press release announcing that they had reached a media rights agreement with NBC Sports. As expected, the announcement detailed the leagues plans to split the games between FOX, FS1, NBC, USA & Peacock TV.
NBC Sports will present 21 USFL games in 2022 on NBC (8), USA Network (9), and Peacock (4), and FOX Sports will carry 22 games split between FOX (12) and FS1 (10).
Some of the details are still yet to be known, but we can discuss the parts that we do. First and foremost, the deal is set for three years. This falls in line with what we’ve seen so far in FOX’s planning for the USFL. As we discussed earlier, they have $150M set aside to cover the costs of the league for three years. Even looking at the central hub, it looks as if they’re planning to host as many as four franchises in 2023 in hopes to move all teams to their respective cities by the third season.
Even more importantly, the league will be receiving rights fees from NBC Sports to air the games. This is huge, and something a lot of the past spring leagues would have killed to have.
When we look at the main reason spring football leagues are unable to survive, it usually comes down to two things; funding and broadcasting. With FOX behind the wheel and another big broadcast partner in play, things are looking good for the league to start out.
Even though the year was winding down, FOX really ramped up the marketing to wrap up the year. In FOX’s last Thursday Night Football broadcast of the season we saw the first USFL promo for the 2022 season.
This was just the beginning. Since then, we’ve seen two more promos debut and a non-stop advertising blitz from FOX during every NFL broadcast since.
Did someone order more football? 🏈 pic.twitter.com/eQtFwjgCXM
— USFL (@USFL) December 17, 2021
Spring 🤝 Football pic.twitter.com/o0OYUSWxJJ
— USFL (@USFL) December 19, 2021
No more… No more football. pic.twitter.com/wKyAQaYqGc
— USFL (@USFL) December 19, 2021
At the time of publication we still haven’t seen any USFL promos on NBC, but they are hosting the Super Bowl this year so we’re hoping that partnership could pay further dividends. We saw the AAF and the XFL get some airtime during the Super Bowl during the leadup to their season, and we don’t expect that trend to change here either.
With all of the news dropping in quick order, many have asked why we haven’t heard about the central location yet. Well, it just seems that the league is waiting for the right moment to make an announcement.
Jon Paepcke of WVTM 13 reported that multiple sources have told him that the news won’t be coming out until January at the earliest.
@USFL UPDATE: I have been told by multiple sources the announcement about the 2022 season host city will not come until after the New Year. Carry on. @USFLStallions
— @JonWVTM13 (@JonWVTM13) December 21, 2021
If you’re to ask why the wait, we think that the league wants to make this announcement special. Possibly announce some of the coaches, team uniforms, or give some more details on the upcoming season. Either way, it seems we won’t need to wait long to find out.
As we roll into the new year it’s expected that we’re going to see a rapid fire of announcements from the USFL. With kickoff set for April, we’re looking forward to learning all about the new league. We’re even more excited to be covering yet another spring football league, and by the looks of things, everything is pointing to a success.
We can’t wait to look back a year from now to see the results of the work that the new USFL team is putting in to bring the league to the market.
What was your favorite USFL news from the past year? What are you looking forward to the most in 2022? Let us know down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.