It’s 2023, and football fans no longer have to endure five months without their favorite sport. Instead, fans now have three alternative leagues to choose from: the XFL, the United States Football League (USFL), and the Canadian Football League (CFL).
History of XFL, USFL, and CFL
The XFL made its return debut just a week after the conclusion of the NFL’s Superbowl, on February 19th. The league is currently nearing the end of its season, with the South and North Division Championship scheduled for April 29th and April 30th. The Arlington Renegades are taking on the Houston Roughnecks, while the Seattle Sea Dragons are facing the D.C. Defenders. For those unaware, this is the third version of the XFL. Back in 2001, WWE creator Vince McMahon promised sports fans that the XFL would be an action-packed and more violent version of the NFL. After reportedly losing more than $70 million on the endeavor, the project was sidelined. That is until 2020 when the XFL 2.0 debuted just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic. Again the league was forced to cancel mid-season. It wasn’t until late 2020 that hopes for another return were rumored. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson alongside his ex-wife and business partner Dany Garcia, and Gerry Cardinale (founder of RedBird Capital Partners), purchased rights to the league for $15 million in 2020.
The USFL is entering its second season since returning (the league first began in 1983, lasting just two years). On April 16th, 2022, the USFL returned with eight teams. The regular season was played entirely in Birmingham. This year’s season brought the addition of three other venues: Detroit, Memphis, and Canton. The USFL is owned by FOX Sports and is broadcasted on FOX, FS1, NBC, Peacock, and USA Network. This year’s season began on April 15th and will feature a ten-week regular season that will conclude on June 18th.
The least popular alternative football league in the United States is the CFL or Canadian Football League. Despite the lack of popularity in the States, the CFL is pretty popular in Canada, with the CFL championship being the most-watched event of the year. The first official CFL season was in 1958, but the sport in Canada goes back further. This year’s season begins on Thursday, June 8th, and concludes on Sunday, November 19th. ESPN2 is the only network we’re aware of that broadcasts some CFL games.
League Similarities and Differences
For the most part, the rules are aligned with what we’re used to seeing in the NFL. However, there are a few rules that seriously change the script. The CFL, for example, features just three downs and has 12 players on the field at a time. It also features a 110-yard field. The XFL and USFL each have eight teams and feature a 10-week regular season with no bye weeks. The CFL has 21 weeks of football and nine teams with each team receiving three bye weeks a season.
Timeouts, challenges, and extra points vary greatly from league to league so it’s worth reviewing before making any first bets on these leagues. The XFL, for example, doesn’t give teams the option of kicking for an extra point; instead, teams must complete either a one, two, or three-point conversion from a scrimmage play at the two, five, or ten-yard line.
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