By Michael Cascaes
The XFL, a professional American football league, made its return in 2020 after a 19-year hiatus. The league’s first iteration, which was co-owned by WWE chairman Vince McMahon and NBC Sports, folded after just one season in 2001. According to SBNation, the XFL was five weeks into its relaunch in 2019 when the covid virus forced the league to postpone indefinitely. However, the new XFL, which is owned by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Dany Garcia, has made some significant changes to its rules and structure to differentiate itself from the NFL and other football leagues as it launched back up for the 2023 season on February 18th.
Rule modifications are essential for the XFL as they try to differentiate themselves from other football leagues. Some unique rule changes are as follows: extra points, three overtime scoring rounds per team, in the 4th quarter there is an alternative for a team to attempt to keep the ball with a 4th down play on there own 25 yard line where they need to convert for 15 yards, and the new kickoff format.
Unique extra points are back as teams are looking to score more points. The XFL allows teams to attempt a one, two, or three-point conversion after a touchdown, compared to the NFL’s one or two-point options. A new rule is that the offense needs to inform the defense if they are running or passing. Teams have the option to run a play form the two-yard line for one extra point. The five-yard line for two extra points and the 10-yard line for three extra points. The defense will gain the same number of points if they score a touchdown off an extra point.
The XFL also has a new kickoff format. The kicker kicks from the 30-yard line, and the coverage team lines up on the receiving team’s 35-yard line. The receiving team lines up on its own 30-yard line. This reduces the number of high-speed collisions during kickoffs, which are among the most dangerous plays in football.
The XFL’s overtime rules are significantly different from the NFL’s. Each team gets five chances to score from the opponent’s five-yard line, and the team with the most points at the end of the five rounds wins. If the teams are tied, the process repeats until there is a winner.
The XFL consists of eight teams, divided into two divisions of four teams each. The North Division includes the DC Defenders,, St. Louis BattleHawks, Vegas Vipers, and Seattle Sea Dragons. The Southern Division includes the Houston Roughnecks, San Antonio Brahmas, Arlington Renegades, and Orlando Guardians.
Each team consists of 52 players making the league a total of 416 players significantly lower than the NFL’s 1,696 plus a practice squad. This means that the quality of play may not be as high as the NFL, but it also allows for more parity between teams and a greater opportunity for players to showcase their skills and potentially make it to the NFL after college. Essentially it is considered as the minor leagues that football has been missing.
HOW THEY’RE DOING
The XFL’s first season in 2020 was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the league has returned for a second season in 2023. So far, the Houston Roughnecks and the St. Louis BattleHawks have emerged as early favorites, with both teams winning their first two games. However, it’s still early in the season, and anything can happen.
The XFL has also seen strong attendance numbers and television ratings, with an average attendance of over 20,000 fans per game and strong ratings on ABC, ESPN, and Fox. This bodes well for the league’s future, and if the XFL can continue to attract fans and improve the quality of play, it could establish itself as a legitimate alternative to the NFL and NCAA football.