There’s a common saying in America that refers to Sundays being “owned” by football. Truthfully, the game has come to dominate Saturdays as well, with the help of college football contests. Autumn is for football it seems, but the spring of 2023 will bring the return of not one, but two separate professional leagues: the XFL and the USFL.
However, with this seeming abundance of professional football filling the airwaves, what does it mean for the state of the sport? Furthermore, what does it mean for the premier professional league – the NFL?
The Rise of Football Leagues: An Era of Expansion
Leading the charge of spring-fueled football leagues, the USFL is “the first alternative spring football league in 20 years to make it through a season.” Its significance should not go unnoticed, as the realm of professional football has been unforgiving to alternative options that parallel the NFL’s monopoly of professional football in America.
Despite the odds against it, the USFL is returning to American televisions this spring and summer.
The league is comprised of eight teams with a 10-game schedule for the season. The fans represented by the franchises are a wide variety, ranging from Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama. While the fans for each team will be built on the foundation of the franchise’s place of residence, any curious eye can witness the United States Football League exclusively on FOX. Additionally, the fact that the league has struck a deal with FOX for two consecutive years shows that interest in the league is substantial enough to warrant such a broadcasting feat.
The XFL is poised to come roaring back into the spotlight, after striking a multi-year deal with ESPN and Disney to broadcast their games. Furthermore, the breath of fresh air brought by superstar Dwayne Johnson and business partner Dany Garcia saved the league from bankruptcy in late 2022. Since concluding their inaugural 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there will be some minor changes to the league.
San Antonio will receive a team, which replaced Los Angeles’ franchise in the previous iteration of the XFL. St. Louis, Houston, Seattle, and Washington D.C. are all keeping their teams. Of note, Seattle’s franchise has been renamed from Seattle Dragons to the Seattle SeaDragons. The Vipers moved from Tampa Bay to Las Vegas, the Guardians from New York to Orlando, and the Renegades hopped the border from Dallas to Arlington, Texas.
What Do the Leagues Mean?
Clearly, the proverbial blood in the water is being noticed by multiple broadcasting titans. The fact that both leagues are big enough to warrant exclusive deals with ESPN, Disney, and FOX is something that fans should pay adequate attention to. In years prior, the term “spring league” was thrown around as something that was viewed as less than. The fact that football was being played at any time other than fall was not taken as seriously, as the season and sport have become married and ingrained into our culture throughout the years. Congruently, as worry about the future of the sport due to health concerns that have mounted throughout time, it should give a heap of hope that there are now more professional leagues that are yearning for fans.
On the flip side of the coin, two new professional leagues are competition to the NFL, no matter how you cut it. Regardless of when the leagues play their seasons, make no mistake, all three organizations are now competing for views from one another. But, the future has yet to be written, for we do not know how long these three leagues can live in harmony with one another. However, the good news for athletes of the sport is that exposure from primetime games may lead to better opportunities for the individual.
Now, don’t get confused, the NFL is still the dominant breadwinner, regarding player salary. So, Kavontae Turpin’s financial upgrade from his USFL salary to his NFL salary is a better opportunity for the individual. But, with the high-profile broadcasting deals, the return for year two, and the success of its players may bring the two new leagues the exposure, over time, to challenge the monopoly of the NFL.
All things considered, the fact that these two new enterprises are looking to make football a year-round sport might be good for all three leagues in the long run, despite their inherent competition. If there are eyes constantly on the field, then money will congruently pump the football industrial system.
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