The world of spring football has been in a rather unique place over the past month. On September 19th, the public was made aware of the USFL and XFL engaging in talks to potentially merge. The USFL-XFL merger became “official” a week and a half later, when the two leagues announced their intent to merge.
BREAKING: The XFL and USFL have announced their intent to merge.
Originally, the reports from Axios and Sportico referred to this merger as “50-50”. While in theory, this may be true, it certainly appears that FOX Sports is running the ship when it comes to the overall structure.
Just last week, we learned that Marc Ross and other XFL personnel had parted ways with the league. We also learned that Jay Rothman and Mandy Cohen, who were heavily invested in broadcast operations, are no longer with the organization.
BREAKING: Marc Ross – XFL Executive VP of Football Operations – is no longer with the organization, per source.
Ross was with the XFL in this role since 2021. Major piece of news concerning a #USFL–#XFL merger. More to come on this development soon.
For context, the USFL is owned by FOX Sports, and is primarily run by Daryl Johnston who currently serves as the President of Football Operations. NBC Sports also has a partnership with FOX to broadcast the league.
The XFL is owned by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dany Garcia, and Redbird Capital who is the investment firm behind the league. In 2023, Disney & ESPN partnered with the XFL to broadcast their 43 games on ABC and ESPN platforms.
While a merger has yet to be made official from a legal standpoint, we are seeing much more personnel turnover from the XFL’s side, which could be a sign of things to come.
Over the past couple of weeks, multiple sources have indicated that all eight USFL teams are likely “safe” within a merger. Considering that the merged league is reportedly to feature around 12 teams, this is a major shakeup in the structure of a “50-50” affair.
Potential Future Outlook
In a twelve team league, with all eight USFL organizations remaining, the following XFL teams are in rough water:
The Houston Gamblers have seemingly won the battle over the Roughnecks. Since day one, reports have continued to circulate around the Gamblers’ higher chances of sticking around, despite the Roughnecks playing in the city in 2023.
Meanwhile, the Vegas Vipers are in trouble since they don’t have a venue. In fact, they weren’t even going to be playing in Vegas in 2024, as relocation was on the horizon before the merger talks began.
As for Orlando and Seattle, at first glance it makes zero sense to shelve those teams. However, logistically speaking, Seattle adds several hurdles especially for travel. On the other hand, Orlando was one of the XFL’s weakest markets in 2023.
This all lines up with a lot of what we’ve been seeing, hearing, and reporting on for the past few weeks. All eight USFL teams have operated business as usual, making plenty of moves and signings official through the USFL free agency period.
Meanwhile, the XFL has taken a different approach. For several weeks there was silence on their end, albeit a couple of showcases. As of this week, dozens of players have signed “Letters Of Intent” to play in the XFL. But, those LOI’s are not binding legal contracts. They don’t mean much of anything until the XFL actually offers official contracts to those athletes.
Something to keep in mind is that Redbird Capital was the entity to initiate these talks back in July. While those conversations might not have been specifically about a “merger” then, it does indicate that the XFL went to FOX first. Additionally, the XFL took some major financial hits during their first season.
Developing: Per source, hearing that it was Redbird Capital – on the XFL's side of things – who originally initiated internal discussions with the USFL.
Throughout the last few weeks, the USFL has made it clear that they will be playing football in 2024, regardless of what happens with the merger. We have not gotten that same clarity from the XFL’s side.
I'm not sure if this has been discussed, but here's something I've been able to confirm.
If the merger doesn't happen the #USFL will play season 3 as expected.
For all intents and purposes, nothing is set in stone until the merger is officially approved by the Department of Justice. We are expecting to get word from the DoJ over the next 7-10 days, give or take.
Whatever ultimately happens, spring football is set to have an even bigger platform in 2024 with one, unified league. As of now, both the USFL and XFL trademarked the “UFL” and “NSFL” properties. The United Football League was trademarked by the XFL. The USFL trademarked the National Spring Football League. Either name could be used in the merger. Interestingly enough, more trademarks might be filed in the coming weeks.
We will keep the public as informed as possible as we continue to learn more on this development.
UPDATE: Neil Stratton of Inside The League is hearing the exact same report.
Some more confirmation on this report, sounds like @InsideTheLeague has been hearing the same thing.
What are your thoughts on the USFL potentially maintaining all eight teams? Are there XFL cities that should be a lock to stick? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!