USFL, XFL to Merge After First Seasons to ‘Ensure Future Growth’

No details on the deal between the two spring football leagues were revealed

Football players on the field during a game.
Arlington Renegades lineman Doug Costin (Courtesy XFL)

The United States Football League and the XFL on Thursday said they plan to merge.

“This historic combination will anchor professional spring football with substantial capabilities and resources to ensure future growth and continue to enhance the development of the collective players, coaches, and staff that are coming together,” the leagues said in a statement.

No details about the financial arrangements for the two upstart football leagues were released, nor was the planned name of the combined company revealed.

The statement said more details will be released at a later date.

USFL returned to the field in the spring after a 38-year absence. That was a year later than the league intended, after announcing its rebirth in 2021 with plans to start play last year. The league was backed in part by Fox Sports, which was also its broadcast partner.

The XFL, founded by former WWE boss Vince McMahon, was sold to Dany Garcia, Dwayne Johnson, and RedBird Capital Partners for $15 million out of bankruptcy in 2021.

The second attempt by McMahon to create a spring football league — he first tried and failed in 2001 — got off to a strong start in February 2020, averaging more than 3 million viewers on its opening weekend, but had to shut down play the following month as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and all play was canceled.

Plans to restart play in spring 2022 were put on hold as Johnson and the other owners explored a combination with the Canadian Football League. Those talks eventually fell through.

The league then reached a multiyear deal with the Walt Disney Company for every regular-season and playoff game to air on a combination of ABC, ESPN and FX.

Opening weekend games on ABC pulled up to 1.6 million viewers and other broadcast games drew about 1.3 million, The Athletic reported, but ratings were anemic when aired on ESPN properties, averaging just 622,000 viewers per game across the season. The championship game in May pulled in 1.43 million viewers.

Both leagues served as something of a feeder for players to enter the NFL, with multiple players, including USFL 2023 MVP quarterback Alex McGough, signing contracts with the more established league.

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