The Return Of The USFL

The United States Football League, which last played a game on July 14, 1985, is returning:

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The USFL is back in business.

Well, almost.

A reincarnation of the league, with an entirely different business model, plans to kick off in March. On Thursday, it included Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff among its advisers.

Biletnikoff will consult on football operations for the league, which originally went out of business in 1987 after losing millions of dollars and, despite winning a lawsuit against the NFL, being awarded just $3 in indemnities. That version unwisely chose to challenge the NFL, while this one will be more of a developmental league.

“We will not try to compete with the NFL at all,” said CEO Jaime Cuadra after adding Biletnikoff and James Bailey, an executive for the Cleveland Browns and then the Baltimore Ravens for 21 years, to the USFL’s board of advisers. The board will be responsible for guiding USFL management on various areas of operations, eventually focusing on a search for the league’s commissioner.

“We will play in markets where there are no NFL teams or major league baseball teams. It’s a league for guys who are on the bubble for making NFL teams, and we will have complete open access for the NFL. We want to build a model that is sustainable.”

The USFL is looking at a 14-game season from March until June in eight cities. Its players would then be free to join NFL clubs at their training camps.

All player and coach contracts will be owned by the league, with salaries not approaching anything the NFL offers.

Cities currently being considered are Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City; San Antonio or Austin, Texas; Columbus or Akron, Ohio; Oklahoma City; Omaha, Neb.; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Memphis, Tenn.

“These are cities with underutilized facilities at that time of year,” Cuadra said.

Nearly all of them also have avid college football followings, something the USFL hopes to draw from. Cuadra said regional draft picks would be used so that, say, a player who attended Oregon or Oregon State would wind up with a Portland franchise.

The league doesn’t have a TV contract as of yet, but that may be easier for them to come by given that they are going to follow the original USFL plan of playing in the Spring rather than trying to compete directly with the NFL, which the original USFL was going to do during its never-played 1986 season, a silly idea that was pushed by, among others, Donald Trump, the owner of the New Jersey Generals. This new version of the league is also somewhat less ambitious than the original USFL in that it would be placing franchises in mostly second-tier media markets as opposed to high profile markets like New York and Los Angeles. I must admit, though, that it’s somewhat puzzling why they wouldn’t try to put a franchise in LA given the fact that the city has no NFL franchise at the moment.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Hey Norm says:

    As long as Donald Trump is NOT involved it may be viable.

  2. Chris Berez says:

    Wait, so what happened to the UFL? Did they fold completely or are they still trying to come back too? Because the talent there was pretty then. It would be interesting to have the UFL and the USFL competing for NFL castoffs (although, I guess like the USFL in it’s original incarnation, both teams could try offering big contracts to attract potential stars).

    Well, whatever happens, I’m all for more football. My parents didn’t let me watch much TV as a kid so I never got to see any USFL games. But I watched the UFL and I’ll watch both that and USFL (assuming UFL is still around).

    @Hey Norm:
    Ha! Now that is something I can find common ground with you on. Keep him the hell away.

  3. @Chris Berez:

    There was supposed to have been an announcement by May 1st but I haven’t seen anything

  4. Fog says:

    We could use a football minor league. It would give athletes a chance at the NFL without having to pretend they’re college students.

  5. John Burgess says:

    Given the new research and public concern over sports concussions, this might not be the time to emulate a sport that’s going to run into legal difficulties soon. Maybe if it served as a test-bed for up-armored athletes…

  6. walt moffett says:

    And the municipal race to provide the biggest package of public money to benefit millionaires is now on.

  7. Jeremy says:

    @Fog: This times eleventy effing billion.