2024 UFL season: What to know about lineups, rules and more

In 2021, actor Larry David started a comedy sports campaign. During an appearance on “The Rich Eisen Show,” David called… – Abolition of goalposts in professional football stadiums.

“Why are there goalposts?” David shouted. “Why kickers [on the team]? They have no football skills. They are not football players. I'm sure they are great people, but they are not footballers. Why do they kick the ball through the goalposts to decide games? This doesn't make any sense at all!”

After nearly three years, David searched for a man who he thought could turn his vision into reality. (Or at least appreciate it and get involved in it.) He tracked down Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a fellow artist who also happens to own part of the United Football League, a product of the 2023 merger between the USFL and the XFL.

David said this month in a… A reappearance on Aizen's show, providing the newly branded league with the best free publicity it could ask for. “I showed him my idea and thought it would happen. He was totally into it.”

Unfortunately, the UFL will actually have goalposts when its eight teams begin their 10-week season on Saturday. But David's gag reinforced an undeniable truth about spring football. It's where professional football innovations originate, from rule changes to television production to the basic idea of ​​how and when the game is played.

The XFL formed the basis for the revamped approach the NFL will adopt this season. The USFL, which entered the market in 2022 alongside the XFL, has shown the depth of interest. While it remains unclear whether the spring football business is sustainable, it is now entering the second half of a near-continuous decade of play. This spring, all 43 UFL games will be broadcast on ABC, Fox, ESPN, FS1 or ESPN2 and streamed on either ESPN+ or the Fox Sports app.

ESPN reported on the league's basics before training camps begin and as the season arrives, here are 10 elements of the UFL you should be aware of.

The talent level has probably increased

This spring will mark the fifth time in six years that a spring football league has started at least a season, from the AAF (2019) to the XFL (2020, 2023) to the USFL (2022, 2023). Johnston believes this trend has created an environment conducive to attracting players who otherwise might have stayed home and waited for calls from NFL teams. That includes former NFL players like pass rusher Taco Charlton and running back Wayne Gallman, who are on the roster with Birmingham and St. Louis, respectively.

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Meanwhile, last winter's merger reduced the number of roster spots available in 2024 by nearly 50% compared to last spring. When you put these factors together, the NFL should be more talented than the recent spring leagues that preceded it.

“Every head coach and general manager has talked about how tough the cuts are,” said Johnston, who worked in the AAF, XFL and USFL before joining the UFL. “I feel very comfortable about the depth we have. That's the area we've improved. … We used to be on the phone saying to players, 'Let's help change the way the NFL looks at you.' Let's put 10 games from the movie on tape. We don’t have to make as many of these calls.”

Johnston said the most notable improvement came on the offensive line. “There were some body types that we had in training camp that we had never seen consistent before,” he said.


There are well-known quarterbacks

The UFL will feature a mix of players familiar to spring league and college football fans. Some teams were still holding competitions as the week ended, but confirmed participating teams include:

Matt Corral is a candidate to start at Birmingham, as are EJ Perry and Danny Etling at Michigan. One possibility in San Antonio is Quentin Dormady.


Two prominent full-backs will not play this season

First, veteran Bo Scarbrough — who saw time with four NFL teams from 2018-2021 before helping lead the Birmingham Stallions to back-to-back NFL championships in 2022 and 2023 — announced his retirement early in training camp.

In a memorable farewell quote, Scarbrough said: “You can love this game all you want. But at the end of the day, the game can't love you too because it's not a person. It's a ball. I loved you too much.” All respect to the people who are still playing. And when it's your time, you'll know it's your time.”

Then, DC's Abram Smith suffered a torn left ACL during training camp practice. Smith led the XFL with 788 yards and seven touchdowns last season while helping the Defenders to the XFL Championship Game.


The most popular fan bases are St. Louis and DC

XFL teams played in their home markets in both 2020 and 2023, and St. Louis had its strongest local connection ever. The Battlehawks averaged 28,000 attendance through two games in the shortened 2020 season, then averaged 35,000 per home game at The Dome at America's Center in 2023 — nearly triple the rest of the league. It's no surprise that the NFL selected St. Louis to host the 2024 championship game on June 16.

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Meanwhile, fans at D.C.'s Audi Field have built an organic tradition of building “beer eels” in the stands while an average of 14,000 crowd the 20,000-seat stadium.

Johnston called St. Louis and D.C. the league's “stars” in terms of local popularity and challenged the rest of the league to match them. All NFL teams played in Birmingham in 2022 and then moved to regional games in 2023. As a result, crowds may be spotty in some markets where only single-game tickets were sold out earlier this month.

“Attendance was probably our biggest challenge as everything came together so late,” Johnston said. “The important thing is that we have to go out and play good football straight away to get that hook, check the commitment people have already made and try to attract some new people.”


There will be no extra point kicks and overtime will be unique

As in previous incarnations of spring football, the UFL will require teams to run an offensive play after downs rather than lining up for a punt. There will be three options. Teams can line up in:

  • 2-yard line for a 1-point attempt

  • The 5-yard line for a 2-point attempt

  • 10 yard line for 3 point attempt

These options should reduce the possibility of the match going to overtime. If that happens, teams will get alternating scoring attempts from the 5-yard line in a best-of-three format (or until a winner is determined). No kicks will be allowed.


The XFL's special start wont Uses

During negotiations to merge the two leagues' rule books, UFL officials decided to keep the USFL's version that most closely resembled the traditional NFL kickoff. In the UFL version, the kicker will mark the ball at the 20-yard line, eliminating the opportunity to touch the ball and thus increasing the number of rebounds. An out-of-bounds kickoff will be spotted 30 yards from where the ball leaves the field.

Ironically, the XFL's version — which places most players on the bottom of the field and requires them to stand still until the ball hits the ground or is sent down the field — was the basis for a proposed revamp of the NFL's kickoff game, which was approved at owners' meetings earlier From this week.

Johnston previously said the NFL's injury data isn't much different from the XFL style.


The NFL will use the NFL possession rule on receptions

Unlike the USFL, the UFL will require receivers to have their feet in bounds or land in bounds with any other part of the body besides the hands. The XFL only required one foot, citing the positive impact it could have on the game's aesthetics and scoring totals. But Blandino said the NFL ultimately decided that requiring two feet was an important distinction between professional and college football.

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“We felt like with the talent and the athletes that we had, we really wanted to go to the highest level and say, 'Hey, this is professional football. If you want to get to the NFL, this is the rule you're going to play under,'” he said.


The “worst rule in football” will not exist

If an offensive player fumbles the ball in and out of the end zone, the offense will retain possession at the scene of the fumble. This is consistent with USFL and

“We only had it once last year,” Blandino said. “Whenever that happens in the NFL, there's a narrative that it's the worst rule in football. People hate it. And so we felt like we wanted to listen to our fans. That doesn't happen very often. So we implemented it and we'll see how it goes.”


Comments will be broadcast on television

Fox and ABC/ESPN will move to the league's official off-site command center while the review is underway. The UFL granted Blandino and fellow executive Mike Pereira the authority to stop the game because, in the league's words, “if the play is reviewable, there is reasonable evidence to believe that an error was made in the initial ruling and it would have a direct impact, a competitive impact on the game.”

Coaches have one challenge they can use to review any play, including a foul. They will lose the timeout if the UFL rules against them.

This approach has received rave reviews in 2023, both in terms of the way it has helped fans learn the league's rules and the transparency in decisions that affect the outcome of matches. In the XFL, their average duration was 51 seconds.

“We expect to stay within a 60-second time window,” Blandino said.


The coaches stayed, but some officials moved on to the NFL

All eight UFL coaches worked in the XFL or USFL last season. Six returned to their same positions while two — John DeFilippo of Memphis and Wade Phillips of San Antonio — shifted to accommodate the merger. Other tasks remain:

  • Birmingham: Skip Holtz

  • Houston: Curtis Johnson

  • Michigan: Mike Nolan

  • Arlington: Bob Stops

  • DC: Reggie Barlow

  • St. Louis: Anthony Bechet

Meanwhile, 12 officials from the XFL and USFL have been hired by the NFL after the completion of the 2023 seasons. The UFL has consolidated the remaining officials into a larger group of 10 who will each work four or five games this season. All UFL officials are part of the NFL's Mackie Development Program.

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