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USFL to Return for Second Season on Fox; Will Go Head-to-Head with XFL

Matt Tamanini

While the announcement that a sports league will return to play games in a new season is normally not newsworthy, given the recent failures of off-season football leagues the Alliance of American Football and the second version of the XFL (and the first version, if you go back a bit further), the confirmation that the USFL will return to play again in 2023 could be considered a not-so-minor victory.

According to John Ourand, Fox Sports CEO and the chairman of the USFL’s board of directors Eric Shanks told the Sports Business Journal in an interview that the league would return for a second season next spring and games would continue to be broadcast on Fox; no word yet on whether NBC will continue to air games in the upcoming season. Fox is the majority owner of the league but partnered with NBC to broadcast and stream games throughout the first season.

The announcement comes ahead of the rebooted league’s first championship game which will be played on Sunday, July 3 between the Philadelphia Stars and Birmingham Stallions. The title tilt will be played at Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, following the rest of the regular and post-season being played in Birmingham, Ala. — also the home of the USFL offices. For its second season, the eight-team league anticipates playing in an additional two to four cities, with hopes of each team eventually having their own home.

“Next year, it will still be eight teams, but they will play in multiple cities, so we’ll get more home markets involved,” Shanks told SBJ. “We’re talking to those cities now in terms of how many we’re going to be in locally.”

The league will maintain essentially the same schedule in 2023 as it did in its inaugural return season beginning in April following the Masters and playing until the Fourth of July Weekend. However, the USFL will have to contend with another spring football league as the third incarnation of the XFL is slated to begin broadcasting games on the ESPN family of networks starting in February 2023.

All 43 games of the XFL’s 2023 season will air on Disney-owned networks including ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and FX — with contests streaming on ESPN+ — as part of a multi-year deal that currently runs through the 2027 season.

There is no doubt that the American viewing public loves football and that the sport drives a significant portion of the broadcast, cable, and streaming industries, but whether or not there is enough interest to support a spring, non-NFL league — let alone two — remains to be seen. However, it is clear that both Fox and Disney think that its worth the gamble to find out.

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