NFL Reportedly In Talks To Potentially Implement The XFL Kickoff | USFL

USFL vs. XFL Rules – What Should The New League Use?

The USFL and XFL both announced the intent to merge leagues in 2024, yet there are a few key differences in officiating between the two. Both spring football leagues have become known for innovative rule changes to traditional football, each with varying degrees of success. Let’s break down a few of their major adjustments to decide who’s rules would best suit the united league.

Onside Kick Or 4th Down?

USFL RULE – 4th and 12 from the 33 yard line
XFL RULE – 4th and 15 from the 25 yard line (Only allowed in 4th quarter)

Both leagues created an alternative version of the onside kick, attempting to increase excitement and competition towards the end of the game. Interestingly enough, the XFL rule in this case is much more conservative than the USFL one, bucking a trend seen throughout most of the other rules.

According to Bestballstats.com, the odds of converting a 4th and 15 are 20%, while the odds of converting a 4th and 12 are slightly higher at 25%. Not only does the USFL rule give teams a greater chance of success, but they also give them better field position, placing the ball at the 33 yard line. This, coupled with the fact that NFL onside kicks are successful just around 8% of the time, (sportingnews.com) means the USFL is arguably giving the offense too much of an advantage here.

The XFL rule takes a much more balanced approach. By moving the ball back to the 25 yard line, they offset the greater chance of success provided by the 4th down play. Moreover, we know that the XFL’s rule isn’t too harsh, as it was used successfully in the league’s very first week during the Battlehawks comeback victory of the Brahmas.

If you need one more statistic, we polled our instagram followers on both USFLUpdate and XFL.Update to see what the fans wanted.

USFLUpdate Poll – 55% of people favor the XFL rule (94 votes)
XFL.Update Poll – 63% of people favor the XFL rule (51 votes)

Even the USFL bias couldn’t stop voters in each poll from picking the XFL rule. Simply put, the XFL onside kick rule is the better and more balanced option the UFL should use.

Extra Point Attempt

USFL Rule – Kick = 1 point, 2 yard line = 2 points, 10 yard line = 3 points.
XFL Rule – 2 yard line = 1 point, 5 yard line = 2 points, 10 yard line = 3 points.

Each league introduced a 3-point attempt from the 10 yard line, something many fans of both the NFL and CFB have wanted for years. By implementing this rule, a 9 point lead now becomes a one possession game. This rule was used successfully in both the USFL and the XFL and should stick around for next season.

The 1 and 2 point conversions however, are where the 2 leagues split. The XFL’s system, which lacked kicking extra points, greatly increased the number of 2 and 3 point conversions throughout the season. This led to largely unorthodox final scores, which were sometimes off putting to more casual fans. It also removes a big aspect of the kicker’s role on the team, making it harder for that position to showcase their skills to NFL scouts.

The USFL approach stays true to NFL rules for the 1 and 2-point conversions. While this traditional style meant less excitement after the touchdown, it is generally more liked. Keeping the extra point kick also allows kickers to display their consistency on the field. A great example of this is Brandon Aubrey, who went 35/35 on PATs in his second season with the team. This, in part, enabled him to get signed to the Dallas Cowboys.

Our instagram polls reveal a similar opinion.

USFLUpdate Poll – 67% of people favor the USFL rule. (92 votes)
XFL.Update Poll – 51% of people favor the XFL rule. (49 votes)

While the XFL vote holds at 51%, once bias is accounted for it’s pretty clear which rule the people like more. Overall, the USFL rule both increases exposure for kickers and makes the league more approachable to casual fans. At the same time, it keeps the 3-point rule that adds another layer of excitement to conversions, without going too far.

Catching in Bounds

USFL Rule – 2 feet must be in bounds for the receiver to make the catch. (NFL Rules)
XFL Rule – 1 Foot must be in bounds for the receiver to make the catch. (CFB Rules)

An often overlooked rule difference between the leagues is their possession rules for catching the ball in bounds. While the USFL took a more professional route, adopting NFL rules, the XFL chose to only require one foot in for a catch. This softer rule change may be less skillful, but it also provides for higher scoring affairs. Some criticize the rule for artificially making XFL offenses look better, but there’s no denying the fact that it can add excitement to the game.

The instagram polls are split almost right down the middle.

USFLUpdate Poll – The vote is split at exactly 50% for each side. (104 votes)
XFL.Update Poll – 54% of people favor the USFL rule. (63 votes)

There are pros and cons to each side of the debate. The two feet in bounds rule provides an easier transition for players into the NFL, but I’m not opposed to using the XFL rule if it means games are going to be more fun to watch in the new season. The better product this new league can put on the field, the more sustainable it will be for the future. Because of this, the XFL rule could be used in this case as well.

Minor Differences

Both leagues implemented different rules for kickoffs in an attempt to decrease the risk of injury on the play. While the XFL’s system is intriguing, I’ve never been a fan of the players having to wait until the ball is touched by the receiving team to move. The USFL kickoff looks and feels more like a traditional kickoff, while maintaining a higher level of safety. While I prefer watching the USFL’s version, the league will most definitely want to consider adopting the XFL’s format for good press and an emphasis on player safety.

The XFL and the USFL attempted to speed up the game with differing clock adjustments. The XFL has a running clock up until 2 minutes left within the half. The USFL originally only used a running clock for quarters 1 and 3 but has since updated it to a running clock all the way up to 5 minutes left in each half. Anticipate the league leaning in favor of the XFL rule as the USFL has slowly become more aggressive in cutting down game length.

Thankfully, both leagues’ overtime rules are identical, so the three attempt shootout should stick around in the new UFL.

Final Verdict

After weighing the many pros and cons of each league’s rulebook, it’s clear that the new UFL should adopt a combination of rules from both the XFL and the USFL. While personally I would lean XFL if forced to choose between the two, the PAT system in the USFL is way better and should continue into next season. That being said, let’s take a look at the final poll from instagram.

Which rules should the new UFL use?

USFLUpdate Poll – USFL Rules 50%, Both 32%, XFL Rules 17%
XFL.Update Poll – XFL Rules 43%, Both 35%, USFL Rules 22%

The bias in each of these final polls is extremely heavy, and it’s clear that the fan bases from each league feel that they are still the best. Thankfully there is hope in that each poll resulted in relatively high votes for the “both” category, suggesting that there is a path forward for the UFL that will keep most people happy.

Whatever choice the new league (likely named UFL) makes on their upcoming rulebook, it is in their best interest to keep innovating and pushing the sport forward. Spring football can become an integral part of this professional scene if it continues to improve on the game we already know and love.

Which rules do you want to see the new league use? How are the USFL – or XFL – rules advantageous for spring football? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

  1. I would prefer Houston not loose The RougeNeckes maybe if the city of Austin Texas would adopt the RougeNeckes I liked the idea of the USFL and the XFL merging

  2. I would like to remove the 2-pts play and the PAT kick – streamlining instead to two options – a “Gimme 1, or Go For 3, from the 3-yd line” choice.
    “Gimme 1” results in a 7-pts touchdown score upon kickoff and a decline to “Go For 3”. If “Going For It” is successful 50% of the time, more can be gained on average compared to the current 1-pt and 2-pts options – and would lead to some intriguing decisions.

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