What is the USFL? Details, history, potential teams for 2022 return of spring football league
After a 35-year hiatus, the USFL is back.
The United States Football League, a spring league that played three seasons from 1983 to 1985, will make its return in 2022. Fox Sports is the television partner, and there are plans to make an eight-team league.
The USFL will try to take advantage of that spring window. The Alliance of American Football (AAF) failed to make it through an entire season in 2019, and COVID-19 cut short the XFL season in 2020. Will the USFL make a difference? Will Donald Trump be back?
MORE: 5 crazy details from the Alliance of American Football’s first and only season
The younger generation might still be asking, “What is the USFL?”
Here’s a closer look.
The United States Football League played three seasons from 1983 to 1985. The 1983 season featured 12 teams, mostly in major markets. The league expanded to 18 teams in 1984 then contracted to 14 teams in 1985.
The USFL made a big initial splash when the New Jersey Generals signed Heisman Trophy running back Herschel Walker from Georgia. Walker was the league’s biggest star, and he rushed for 1,812 yards and 17 touchdowns in 1983.
Walker wasn’t the only college superstar who chose the USFL over the NFL. Pro Football Hall of Fame players such as Jim Kelly, Reggie White, Steve Young and Gary Zimmerman started in the USFL. George Allen, Bill Polian, Sid Gillman and Marv Levy also were involved in the league.
Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie signed with the USFL over the NFL after winning the award in 1984.
Herschel Walker signed with the New Jersey Generals in 1983. (Getty Images)
Donald Trump became the owner of the New Jersey Generals in 1984, and he pushed the USFL to move to a fall schedule to compete with the NFL. The USFL filed an antitrust lawsuit with the NFL and eventually won the case, but the three-year court battle did more harm than good.
The USFL folded before the start of the 1986 season.
It will be much more difficult for the USFL to compete for NFL talent, and other developmental leagues have tried and failed in the spring window.
The AAF and XFL had good initial TV ratings, but those dropped when the curiosity factor dwindled. That will be the challenge for another spring league.
The USFL also might be competing with the CFL and XFL, which reportedly are in discussions to merge.
The USFL does have a nostalgia factor in its favor with the older generation of football fans that remembers those teams and players. It will need to feed off that to get some initial buzz.
The USFL hasn’t said yet where it plans to have teams when it returns in 2022, though we do know that there will be eight teams to start. But the original league could provide some hints as to which cities could land teams.
The USFL has not announced which teams/cities will be involved in the new league, but we have some ideas for which eight franchises should return to the USFL in 2022.
The Panthers won the first USFL championship game in 1983, the last pro football championship in the state of Michigan. The Panthers had the best helmet, too.
The Generals grabbed the most attention by getting Walker and Flutie to sign. This franchise has to be back the second time around, if only to get Flutie to keep that hat on …
The Stars were the most successful team during the league’s first run. They had a 41-12-1 record under Jim Mora, who used that success to launch a successful NFL career.
Steve Spurrier coached this team the first time. This would bring his career full circle. This gives the league a Florida market.
The Oakland Invaders had more success, but Memphis has appeal as another market that might be interested in pro football. It’s an excuse to bring out those throwback Reggie White jerseys.
Jim Kelly passed for a USFL-record 5,219 yards in 1984, and the Gamblers were instrumental in bringing the “Run and Shoot” to professional football.
San Antonio’s AAF team had the best attendance, and the USFL can exploit that here with a natural rivalry with Houston. Rick Neuheisel played QB for the Gunslingers in the original USFL.
The Arizona Wranglers would be a possibility, but the Los Angeles market is always important. Steve Young was a star player for the Express, too.
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