USFL, XFL merge to form United Football League

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2024

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After months of speculation, the USFL and XFL made their merger official this weekend by announcing the formation of the United Football League (UFL).

Speculation of a merger between the two leagues began in the fall and became all but confirmed over the past few months. XFL owner Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson – along with his partner Dany Garcia – announced the merger during the NFL’s pregame show on FOX on New Year’s Eve.

The merger will see eight teams – four from the USFL and four from the XFL – compete in the inaugural season of the new UFL, beginning March 30. The back-to-back USFL Champion Birmingham Stallions – Alabama’s only professional football team – will remain as one of the four USFL franchises that will compete in the USFL Conference. The other three teams consist of the Memphis Showboats, Michigan Panthers and the newly christened Houston Roughnecks. While the Roughnecks will retain the XFL Houston’s trademarks, logos and nicknames, the players and coaches from the USFL’s Houston Gamblers will make up the staff and roster.

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The XFL Conference will be made up of the Arlington Renegades, St. Louis Battlehawks, DC Defenders and San Antonio Brahmas.

Additionally, the league announced that the season opener will pit the reigning USFL Champion Stallions against the reigning XFL Champion Renegades on March 30. Each team will play a 10-game regular season, two games each against conference opponents and four non-conference games.

While an official statement has not been released, the UFL is expected to take on the XFL’s “hub” format for regular season games. The USFL used four hubs during its second season of play with multiple teams playing – and being hosted – in four different cities. Meanwhile, the XFL used a singular hub that saw all eight franchises reside and practice in San Antonio, Texas, before playing home games in their home markets. The UFL is expected to use that same XFL format with teams playing regular season home games in their home markets but practicing and resigning in a singular “hub.”

The Stallions return head coach Skip Holtz to the sidelines along with a slew of players that have re-signed from the past two championship teams, including quarterback J’Mar Smith, running back Bo Scarbrough, receivers Victor Bolden Jr. and Marlon Williams and linebacker Scooby Wright. The Stallions have also signed a number of free agents in the offseason.

The UFL will hold a dispersal draft on Jan. 15, which will see each UFL franchise draft from a pool of players from the dissolved USFL and XFL franchises from last season. Among those players that will be draft eligible are former Troy Trojan Kirk Kelley of the New Orleans Breakers and former Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers of the XFL’s version of the Houston Roughnecks.

Silvers is a spring league veteran having played for the Memphis Express of the short-lived AAF in 2019, the Seattle Dragons of the first return of the XFL in 2020, and the Roughnecks in the second version of the XFL last season. Last season, Silvers started eight games and completed 156-of-262 passes for 1,551 yards and 13 touchdowns leading the team to the playoffs.