Just as one wouldn’t expect a Thanksgiving turkey in June, to expect a football season to come to a head at the beginning of summer seems a little out of place.
But this is the case with the United States Football League. Commonly referred to as the USFL, this particular league is a football league with a 10-week, 10-game season accompanied by playoff games and the USFL championship. The league started its inaugural season in late April 2022. All of the league’s regular season games are being played at Protective Stadium and Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.
The league has eight teams: the Birmingham Stallions, Houston Gamblers, Michigan Panthers, New Jersey Generals, New Orleans Breakers, Pittsburgh Maulers, Philadelphia Stars and Tampa Bay Bandits.
At this time of year, football is usually on hiatus. The NFL — National Football League — and college football teams take this time to rest and prepare for their seasons in the fall. The most recent televised live games the nation had been privy to have been the NFL’s Super Bowl in early February and the slew of college bowl games that occur before that in January.
Now we have a football league that fills in the summer gap that provides an opportunity for football fans to watch the sport at a different time. The USFL season kicked off April 16 and featured the New Jersey Generals taking on the Birmingham Stallions at Protective Stadium.
This is technically a start in the spring, but the USFL season gains traction in the summer months of May and June. The championship is being played July 3 of this year.
At this point in time, Week Seven has just wrapped up and the league moves forward into Week Eight with the New Jersey Generals leading the North Division with a 6-1 record. In the South Division, the Birmingham Stallions stand undefeated at 7-0.
With just three weeks left in the regular season, it’s crunch time for the teams that aren’t doing so hot at the moment. The USFL takes the top two teams in each division with the best record and has them compete in a playoff game in order to earn a spot in the championship. This means that the first- and second-place teams in the North and South divisions will compete in a playoff game for the right to play in the championship.
This differs from the NFL, which gives teams with the best record behind the division winners a wild-card spot. This gives teams a chance to play in playoff games and potentially the Super Bowl, even if they don’t win the division.
Meanwhile, the USFL has proven to be different from the NFL in the case of how it organizes playoff and championship opportunities. Even football itself is played a little differently in this respective league.
Many of the USFL’s game rules differ from that of the NFL, with some standouts, including two forward passes behind the line of scrimmage being allowed and the existence of three different options for an extra point — or points — after a touchdown is made.
As the weather heats up, the rules in place heat up the game as well. Even rules that involve offensive plays and extra points provide a sense of volatility for those new to the league.
With more potential for miraculous plays and phenomenal comebacks to be made, the unique angle the USFL has taken on football provides new entertainment for fans in the summer months.
Nicolas Chacon is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].