2024 UFL Breakdown: What Is the United Football League?

Author:
Oddstrader

Spring football is getting an upgrade in 2024 with the United Football League, or UFL for short. Not to be confused with the short-lived UFL that ran in 2009-12, this new venture is a merger between the XFL and USFL, both of which had seasons in 2023.

This 8-league team is scheduled to begin play on March 30, 2024. The ownership group still includes Dwayne Johnson, and the owners are hoping to avoid any pandemic issues that have plagued the XFL in the past as they look to put on the most successful American football season that’s not the NFL since the USFL of the 1980s.

We have the details of what we know so far about the new UFL below.

The Origins of the UFL

The UFL is a merger between the XFL and the United States Football League (USFL), which are both minor leagues in American football that have drawn enough attention for TV contracts and some professional football players you have heard of before.

The XFL was actually a 2020 reboot of the short-lived league from the early 2000s that was a Vince McMahon endeavor that never quite took off as fans expected wrestling-style football entertainment. But the XFL returned in 2020 and was doing a solid job until the pandemic ceased all operations just weeks into the inaugural season.

The XFL was able to return for a complete 2023 season with 8 teams. The postseason featured a huge upset as the Arlington Renegades, who were only 4-6 in the regular season, defeated the top offense and 9-1 record of the D.C. Defenders.

Meanwhile, the USFL rebooted itself in 2022, using team names from the popular 1980s version of the USFL. It completed a full season, then returned for another full season with 8 teams in 2023. Like the XFL, there was a 4-6 team in the championship game (Pittsburgh Maulers), but they lost to the 8-2 Birmingham Stallions, the league’s last champion.

Months after the seasons concluded, the XFL was in talks with the USFL to merge, which became official on December 31, 2023. The United Football League (UFL) was born from this merger.

The Teams in the UFL

With the XFL and USFL merging into an 8-team league, that means only select teams survived to make it to the new league. They are going to be placed into 2 conferences (4 teams each) to help build a rivalry between the brands.

USFL Conference:

  • Birmingham Stallions
  • Houston Roughnecks
  • Memphis Showboats
  • Michigan Panthers

XFL Conference:

  • Arlington Renegades
  • D.C. Defenders
  • San Antonio Brahmas
  • St. Louis Battlehawks

The teams are largely concentrated in the South and Midwest, so travel should not be a big deal for the teams.

The 2024 Schedule Format

The 2024 UFL season is scheduled to begin on March 30, and the 1st game is a great decision as it will have the 2023 XFL champion (Arlington Renegades) face the 2023 USFL champion (Birmingham Stallions).

The teams will play a 10-game schedule with no bye weeks, and that will conclude on June 2. The playoffs, which will consist of 4 teams, will then run for a couple of weeks, finishing on June 16, 2024.

UFL games will be played on Saturdays and Sundays, and the league has secured TV deals with ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, Fox, and FS1.

What Are Some Notable Rule Changes?

Perhaps the most interesting part of any minor football league is seeing what rule changes and innovations the league plans to offer compared to the NFL product. Dean Blandino and Mike Pereira, two former Vice President of officiating in the NFL, are heading up the rules for the UFL this year.

What are some of the rule differences?

Overtime

With overtime still on everyone’s mind after Super Bowl LVIII, we can report the UFL will use the XFL overtime system. That means a best-of-3 shootout using 2-point conversions from the 5-yard line. Sounds a little basic after what we just saw Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs do, but it is a quick way to decide things and can be compelling in its own way.

Two Feet for a Catch

What’s a catch? Even in 2024, no one may know for sure, but at least we know you have to get 2 feet down for it to count in the UFL just like you do in the NFL. This is a change from what the XFL used in the past, with 1 foot being enough.

Kickoff Change

The kickoff has largely been reduced in the NFL with kickers just booming it into the end zone for touchbacks. The XFL and USFL have been good experiments on how to make the play both more exciting and safer.

The UFL is going to use the USFL kickoff rule, which is a normal kickoff but from the 20-yard line. The NFL kicks off from the 35 in comparison. This should lead to solid field position for the opponent.

Onside Kicks

Given the onside kick is broken in professional football, the XFL introduced a neat approach in the 4th quarter where a team could attempt a 4th-and-15 from their 25-yard line to earn an extra possession with a conversion. The USFL rule was a 4th-and-12 from the 33-yard line.

The UFL is going to do something similar with a 4th-and-12 from the 28-yard line, which could lead to more exciting comebacks. Again, this is something you can only do in the 4th quarter of games.

Extra Points

This was a huge area of difference between the XFL and USFL as the XFL banned kicking on extra points. Instead, the XFL offered conversions of 1, 2, and 3 points from varying distances. The USFL also had 2 and 3-point conversions, but you were allowed to kick an extra point too.

The UFL is going with the XFL version, so say goodbye to those extra points. Fans of the 49ers may not feel bad about that after seeing their kicker get blocked in the Super Bowl on an extra point.

No Shady Pass Interference Calls Down the Field

The biggest penalty in the game of football in terms of yards you can be penalized is defensive pass interference. Everyone’s least favorite judgment call is getting a restriction in the UFL as no defensive pass interference penalty can be more than a 15-yard penalty. So, if you get beat deep, you might as well cheat now.

But overall, the changes do seem to be geared towards making the UFL a higher-scoring and more exciting brand of football.

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