The United States Football League, a spring football league that hasn’t existed for nearly four decades, will be making a surprising return in spring 2022.
Fox Sports announced Thursday that it will be a TV broadcast partner and minority stakeholder for an all-new USFL, whose new owners have retained the rights to some of the original team names.
“The relaunch of the USFL is a landmark day for football fans and FOX Sports,” said Eric Shanks, CEO and executive producer of Fox Sports. “Football is in our DNA and the return of this innovative and iconic league is a fantastic addition to our robust slate of football programming.”
The league will launch with a minimum of eight teams, but further details on cities, coaches and schedules aren’t available.
“We look forward to providing players a new opportunity to compete in a professional football league and giving fans everywhere the best football viewing product possible during what is typically a period devoid of professional football,” Brian Woods, cofounder of the new USFL, said in a statement.
Woods is the founder and CEO of The Spring League, a professional developmental football league featuring eight teams and playing its fifth season. Games air on FS1, and since its founding, 104 players have gone on to sign with the NFL, Woods said in a recent interview.
“We are filling a very critical void, that middle ground between college and the NFL where players still need time to develop. They need extra repetitions; they need to remain relevant,” Woods told Indianapolis Fox 59 earlier this month.
The new USFL enters a suddenly crowded field of new spring football leagues, including a revamped XFL with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a part-owner. Recent leagues, such as the Alliance of American Football and Arena Football League, were forced to shut down.
The original USFL launched in 1983 and lasted three seasons. The league consisted of 12 teams, including the Philadelphia Stars, who played two seasons at Veterans Stadium before moving to Baltimore.
The Stars were owned by real estate developer Myles Tanenbaum, who patterned the team’s maroon and gold look off the colors of Central High School, where he was a bench warmer for the school’s football team.
“I’ve gotten completely carried away. I didn’t know I could feel such excitement, such exhilaration,” Tanenbaum told the Philadelphia Daily News when he became an owner.
The original USFL included teams such as Houston Gamblers, Los Angeles Express, Oakland Invaders, and Tampa Bay Bandits. Several future NFL Hall of Famers played for the league, including Reggie White, Jim Kelly, and Steve Young.
Former President Donald Trump owned the New Jersey Generals, and is widely blamed for the league’s failure by pushing for it to move to the fall to compete with the NFL.