The United Football League (UFL), the spring American football league formed out of the merger of the XFL and the United States Football League (USFL), has announced that its inaugural 2024 season will kick off on March 30.
The league, played across spring to avoid clashing with the National Football League (NFL), will begin with eight teams contesting a ten-game regular season, followed by post-season playoffs and a championship game.
The teams are separated into two conferences, one composed of sides drawn from the USFL side of the merger, and one of teams drawn from the XFL.
The league will be run by personnel compiled from both leagues, with former XFL president and chief executive (CEO) Russ Brandon becoming UFL president and CEO, and former USFL president of football operations Daryl Johnston taking on the same role at the UFL.
UFL will make use of both league’s existing TV deals, being broadcast over the US' two biggest sports networks, the Fox network's Fox Sports channels, and Disney's channels ESPN and ABC.
The UFL ownership makeup is a 50/50 split between the ownership groups of the two merged leagues.
The USFL was owned by global media giant the Fox Corporation, while the XFL was owned by a group consisting of former professional wrestler and American football player Dwayne Johnson, US businesswoman Dany Garcia, and private investment firm RedBird Capital Partners.
Gerry Cardinale, RedBird managing partner, stated of the UFL: “When you combine the entertainment and marketing expertise of Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia, the broadcast and network reach of Fox and ESPN, and the strategic capital and company building mentality of RedBird, there is a tremendous opportunity to achieve something unique.”
Cardinale continued, stating his belief that the UFL is: “a valuable and scalable live event entertainment platform that will continue to work closely with the NFL on innovation and player development and have a legitimate shot at becoming one of the top professional leagues in the country after the big four.”
The XFL and USFL first announced their intention to merge in September 2023 after persistent rumors, following both leagues suffering from poor viewership and lack of interest in their respective 2023 seasons.
The two leagues averaged around 600,000 viewers across their 2024 seasons, with the XFL recording its lowest-watched game ever in March.
NFL alternatives have a history of short lifespans, with the XFL itself already having been scrapped twice before after single seasons.
While the UFL may mitigate this by combining viewer bases and reducing competition for eyes, as well as boasting a strong pair of rights tie-ups, there are still questions about the appetite for American football in the NFL offseason from the general public.