Is the USFL the real deal or a knockoff?

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For many, the football-less blues kicks in shortly after the end of the Super Bowl in early February and last until the waning days of summer when the National Football League season starts anew.

There was a time, however, when football fans only had to wait a few weeks between the end of the NFL season and the beginning of another high-quality professional football league’s season. That time was the 1980s when the United States Football League captured the country’s attention with its star-studded rosters that threatened to steal the spotlight from the NFL.

Legal and financial issues put an end to the USFL after three seasons and many of its players found spots on NFL rosters soon after. Following the league’s folding in 1986, five USFL players (Jim Kelly, Steve Young, Sam Mills, Reggie White, and Gary Zimmerman) went on to Hall-of-Fame careers in the NFL. Two USFL coaches were also inducted into the HOF after the league’s demise (George Allen and Marv Levy).

Fast forward 35 years to 2021 and the USFL resurfaced as an eight-team league that is currently in its inaugural season. If you blinked, you may have missed this.

Organized into two divisions, USFL teams include franchises in Birmingham, Houston, Detroit, East Rutherford, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Tampa Bay.

In addition to obtaining the rights to use the 1980s league’s logo, the current USFL also has the rights to use team names from the former incarnation of the league, which the current teams do. That includes the rights to teams that don’t currently exist, such as the Los Angeles Express and Chicago Blitz.

Despite legal efforts to stop the current USFL from starting its inaugural season, the league got underway anyway in mid-April of this year.

While the USFL plays football in much the same way that the NFL does, there are noticeable differences, including ones that involve timing, kickoffs, and punts.

One of the more notable differences is the option of a three-point conversion following a touchdown, which involves converting on an offensive play from the 10-yard line.

While the current version of the USFL bears its predecessor’s name, there is no official connection between the leagues. In fact, a group named The Real USFL, LLC, filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the current USFL season before it began. The group reportedly included the owners of the original league and its team owners. A federal judge ruled in favor of the new league two days before the 2022 season started. The ruling also gave the new league rights to the previous league’s logo and team names.

It’s not clear yet how good the quality of play is in the current USFL, but it’s unlikely it’ll produce the likes of Kelly, Young, and White like the 1980s USFL did.

Not too keen on the idea of another pro football league? Brace yourself; another one – which actually started play in 2020 and ceased its schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic – is set to return in early 2023. Remember the XFL? That’s the one. That league’s a story for another article. Stay tuned. (Martinez is a Serve Daily contributor.)

Kelly Martinez
Kelly Martinez
Kelly Martinez is a graduate of Utah Valley University who has written for a variety of publications, including the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Deseret News. He got his start covering sports and has expanded his writing to cover many topics. His company, Señor Write Inc., provides the platform for him to produce several types of writing.

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