With the XFL returning once again, expansion has been a universal question from news outlets and magazines for newly appointed owners as the early stages of reconstruction for the league’s offices and teams have begun. It is extremely unlikely that XFL 3.0 explores the idea of expansion fully on the side of more teams, but with the door being open, it begs the question of where the league could potentially go with adding new communities to the XFL family. Dany Garcia had a few words on the topic when interview by The Athletic.
“[W]e love eight teams. We love eventually having more than eight teams. I think we’ll be reviewing some of the markets as we should. There was a lot of great work that was done and was succeeding. But I think whenever you have time to reset, I think it’s a really, really important time to just reassess.”
Top communities from the days of the Alliance of American Football have been frontrunners so far with the former XFL ownership exploring the markets of San Antonio and Orlando for relocation and the city of Birmingham continually expressing that they want to be in the discussion for an XFL expansion as far back as February of this year.
Birmingham in the discussion for an XFL team makes plenty of sense as it once was home to the Birmingham Thunderbolts of the original XFL launch. This coincidence has us wondering one thing here at XFL Newsroom: How likely are we to see any of the 2001 XFL teams make a comeback in XFL 3.0?
Quick note: this is not saying that any of the original 2001 teams or locations are confirmed to be reappearing in XFL 3.0, but if we analyze factors such as geographical and historical data we could put together a logical ranking of likelihood for any of these original teams to return. We have organized this list from worst to first.
8. Los Angeles Xtreme
If different circumstances for the Los Angeles sports landscape had taken place over the last nineteen years, we may be discussing the Los Angeles Xtreme as one of the most likely to be resurrected from their XFL 1.0 days. The Xtreme had the luxury to end their run on a positive note with the team being the only one to ever win the XFL Million Dollar Game and were respectfully in the middle of the pack in attendance drawing an average of 22,000 per home contest.
However, in the nineteen years away from the Los Angeles market the sports scene in town has become quite congested to say the least. The NFL’s presence in the region has made the viability to breaking into the market that much more challenging, and considering that XFL 2.0 had an uphill battle with just one team in the area, it is near impossible at this time to consider a second simultaneous venture into the country’s second largest sports market.
7. New York/New Jersey Hitmen
Surprisingly, in the busiest sports market in the country with the harsher Northeast spring season, the New York Hitmen were able to draw in the second largest crowds per home contest only behind the San Francisco Demons. However, much like the previously mentioned squad based in Los Angeles the Hitmen would be fighting for the scraps of coverage and exposure that the New York Guardians are currently having issues with in the New York metropolitan area.
Considering the struggles for attendance and media coverage that the Guardians faced as well in the XFL of today compared to its 2001 counterpart, it would be ill-advised to have a second XFL team in the same market if expansion was on the table.
The saving grace for any chance in seeing this team see action on a field of play once more is in the name. A move to placing the team in New Jersey could spread out the fanbases of the two teams, but with the city of Philadelphia being a much better market to eventually move to within the tri-state area, there would be little to no sense to put the team in The Garden State when the fourth largest television market in the country is right next door in Pennsylvania. Plus, we have to consider a potential relocation for the New York Guardians, which could involve a move to Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.
6. Chicago Enforcers
A move back to Chicago would check off a box for another major market XFL team, but there are some factors that restrict this team from landing higher up on this ranking. For starters, the Enforcers logged the lowest attendance numbers for the entirety of the 2001 season. Historically, the trend of low turnout for any football team not nicknamed “The Monsters of the Midway” in Chicago is common. With this in mind, the nostalgia for the team may not be as active as others on our list. Weather can also take the brunt of the blame in this case as well as the lakefront conditions can make for harsh weather for spectators which was a major factor in the 2001 season..
There is also the issue of the league’s current luck with top tier television markets that rears its ugly head once more as XFL 2.0 had its own issues breaking into the New York and Los Angeles markets with fan support and coverage. The Enforcers suffered the same fate in 2001 as media sources in town often had little to no coverage of the league in 2001, and the evidence lines up for a similar fate if the team took the field once more. In an ideal future where new XFL ownership will need to place teams in the remaining major television markets as the league grows in popularity, the Enforcers should be considered for a revival (along with the Chicago Blitz), but for now, The Windy City as an expansion idea that can be shelved for much hungrier football markets that should be explored and established.
5. Orlando Rage
As we have seen in the last two years, Orlando is currently a hot ticket site for spring football action. The Alliance of American Football displayed that the community is ready for another major sports league to break into the community, and in 2001 the Orlando Rage received plenty of support from South Florida when they then occupied the then titled “Florida Citrus Bowl” (now known as “Camping World Stadium”). The team also finished with the best record in the league in 2001, and was considered a prime example of the league’s potential in its first launch.
With all of this in mind, one might wonder why Orlando ranks in the bottom half of this list. The issue facing the Rage ever making an appearance again on a field of play is recency bias and the Tampa Bay Vipers relocation discussions. With the new ownership of the league looking to review the markets of its current teams, it can be seen with high possibility that the league would want to restart discussions for relocation of the Vipers. Add on the popularity of the Orlando Apollos from the days of the Alliance of American Football, and the Rage appear to be the odd man out on an ideal choice for a revived team in the City of Light.
Much like the Enforcers, it could be an option to introduce the team at a later date with an established and growing XFL in a major television market such as Miami or a mid-size market like Jacksonville, but for now, there are other options that should be considered in the works.
4. Memphis Maniax
The city of Memphis is no stranger to the allure of spring football, and in 2001 the XFL recognized this when they announced the Memphis Maniax. Considering the history of spring football in the city and its community being in the mid-size range that has been successful for leagues in the past, it would make quite a bit of sense to explore the team reappearing in Grind City.
The factor that we see as the definitive roadblock for the Maniax ever returning to the Liberty Bowl is the history of the controversy behind the nickname itself. Twenty years ago when the teams nickname and logos were announced, the term “Maniax” was being used to continue the extreme violent and criminal themes that the 2001 version of the league wanted to be aligned with. This version of the XFL was still trying to make football into a spectacle much like professional wrestling at the time with the WWF.
The Maniax as a nickname, and in-particular the alternate logo depicting a mentally unstable individual and naming their facility “The Asylum”, were highly criticized at the time. The National Mental Health Association especially took issue with the depiction when they gave their input to the Chicago Tribune over the matter.
“The mental health association says the logo of the Memphis team, a drawing of a man with frizzled hair and spirals for eyes, also is demeaning. The group also contends that displaying the letters “ax” from the end of the Maniax name on players’ helmets perpetuates a stereotype that mentally ill people are violent and dangerous.”
The XFL then stood their ground on the naming, but we are not so sure that the league would want to repeat this stance. In the nineteen years since the Maniax last played a down, there is quite the likelihood that this name would only be further criticized if brought back in its 2001 form. Because of this, a Memphis revival would either need to reimagine and reposition the nickname before a relaunch could be official. The city deserves a team. It would most likely be carried by a brand new team unless a work of marketing genius is performed.
3. San Francisco Demons
If we based this list solely on fan interaction and attendance from the 2001 season, then the Demons would be considered a slam dunk entry into an expansion consideration for the XFL. The team was averaging just north of 35,000 fans per contest, and the support was so strong that throughout the season they had created a fan section called “The Hellhole”.
The Demon also boasted one of the most unique home venues as they had made the then named “Pacific Bell Park” (now titled “Oracle Park”) where the San Francisco Giants call home their own stomping grounds as well. If this situation was replicated in San Francisco the same way it was nineteen years ago, we may have placed the Demons as our top choice.
What holds us back from fully embracing the Demons having a chance to return would be the stadium situation. At the time that the Demons were announced to be part of XFL twenty years ago, they initially were to be based in San Jose. This was going to be the case until officials at the newly opened Pacific Bell Park convinced XFL executives to move the team to the ballpark on the bay. If the XFL were to attempt a relaunch of the team, it is not guaranteed that they could land residence at the now titled Oracle Park even with the park hosting football events as recently as 2013. It is also a possibility that they could look to leverage their original location in San Jose with stadium options like Earthquakes Stadium or CEFCU Stadium, but given the possibility of having a chance to play once more at Oracle Park in the heart of San Francisco, it would be a decision of all or nothing to resurrect the once popular team.
2. Birmingham Thunderbolts
Birmingham, much like Memphis, is no stranger to the spring football scene, and in 2001 the XFL recognized that it would be ideal once again. Twenty years after the team was announced, the idea of spring football is still at the forefront of the Birmingham community, and the city is actively pursuing another XFL team at this time. Add in the fact that the success of the Birmingham Iron in the Alliance of American Football is still fresh in the minds of many.in spring football circles, and you have a recipe for potentially a full reboot with the Thunderbolts name in tow.
The naming situation is the only reason that the Thunderbolts finish runner-up in our ranking. As much as the Birmingham Iron have boosted the chance for the Thunderbolts to ever return, they are also much more likely to be resurrected rather than the Thunderbolts. First, the Thunderbolts as a nickname has less staying power compared to the Iron. The Iron name ties back to the city’s history with steel production, and Birmingham has been nicknamed “Pittsburgh of the South” in the past. Comparing this more effective nickname to the alleged story of how the Thunderbolts had to ditch the nickname “The Blast” due to high sensitive and tragic events with the history of the city, the support for the Bolts slowly dries up. Perhaps the new league ownership could spin the Thunderbolts by reimagining the logo and look of the team compared to the strangely placed helmet logos from the 2001 season, but with the Iron moniker being available for the taking according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office there is no question what name the league should target if, and when, it most likely makes its return.
1. Las Vegas Outlaws
Though the city of Las Vegas has not been actively pursuing an XFL team like Birmingham, the pairing could not make more sense for the league’s direction. To start, Las Vegas is currently the hotspot for sports expansion opportunities thanks in part to the successful launches of the NHL and WNBA into the region. The NFL took notice, and jumped on the opportunity as well when the then Oakland Raiders needed a new home with what appears to be initial positive results.The XFL could also capitalize on their chance to relaunch in the market with even potentially going back to Sam Boyd stadium which was the site of the original XFL launch nineteen years prior.
Another point to consider is the ever growing sports gambling scene that the XFL was embracing before its bankruptcy. Having an XFL team in the heart of the gambling world makes sense given their initiatives the league put in place with enhancing the broadcasts of games with updated Over/Under numbers and odds in their relaunch. These broadcast features were revolutionary, and betting on the league was starting to take hold before the pandemic put the relaunch on ice. XFL 3.0 could capitalize with a team being here, and they would have access to direct feedback from the largest gambling community in the United States.
Lastly, the nickname and logo has aged fairly well compared to its other 2001 counterparts. As mentioned previously, The XFL in 2001 wanted team names that were traits of invoking criminal activity and violence, and the Outlaws do fit this description, but compared to its counterparts the term “Outlaws” doesn’t come off as cheesy or out of date. Many of the league’s former team names are from a bygone era in the XFL where Vince McMahon wanted to combine the extremes of professional wrestling and football.
With the XFL now standing on its own merits to be a legitimate professional football league for the fans, names like “Hitmen”, “Demons”, or “Extreme” are less likely to mess with more modern and well-received current XFL names like the Dragons, Roughnecks, Battlehawks, and so on. One could argue that the Dallas Renegades already have taken the similar moniker to that of the Outlaws, but with the logos being distinct for each team the XFL could swing this. The Outlaws would also provide a unique color pallet with their red, black, and gold uniforms that would differentiate that team from the rest of the current squads in today’s version of the league.Overall, the chips all fall in the favor of a comeback in Sin City.
What are your thoughts? In any case, this writer would like to see many of these teams back, but with expansion you only can have so many.