The Super Bowl is barely in the rearview mirror and, yet, there’s already more professional football on the way. The relaunch of the XFL is upon us, with the inaugural season kicking off this weekend.
It’s been easy to put the XFL on the back burner while the NFL season was still underway, but now the newest secondary league is trying to stick where many have failed before (including the first iteration of the XFL, which both launched and died in 2001).
How is this time different? What can you expect? Who are the teams? Let’s dive in and get all your big questions answered.
What is the XFL?
An eight-team alternate football league scheduled to play from Feb. 8 until the championship game on Sunday, April 26.
Who are the teams?
You can learn more about each roster over at DraftKingsNation, but these are the teams as they stand:
- Dallas Renegades
- DC Defenders
- Houston Roughnecks
- Los Angeles Wildcats
- New York Guardians
- Seattle Dragons
- ST. LOUIS BATTLEHAWKS (this name must always be capped for its ridiculousness)
- Tampa Bay Vipers
In addition there is a “Team 9,” which serves as a communal practice squad for the entire league.
What is the history of the XFL?
Originally an alternate football league foundered by WWE owner Vince McMahon, the XFL debuted in 2001 as a joint effort between the professional wrestling juggernaut and NBC. Featuring eight teams, the league sought to “fun up” football with more personality, with wrestling-style announce teams and presentation.
The issue was the on-field product proved to be bad — really bad. Quickly the league was mocked, and there was even speculation that games themselves were rigged, though this seems more attributable to McMahon’s wrestling background than any concrete evidence.
It wasn’t long before the XFL was dead, lasting just a single season. It would remain dormant until 2017, when an ESPN documentary titled This was the XFL featured a musing McMahon who speculated that perhaps the league would make a comeback some day, but this time with a greater focus on the play itself and less the presentation around it.
Then, in early 2018, rumor became reality and the XFL announced it was coming back. McMahon announced the new eight-team league would begin in 2020 and immediately made headlines by trying to attach his league to controversy. The announcement came amid Colin Kaepernick being blackballed by the NFL and numerous players kneeling during the national anthem. McMahon told the world that players in his league wouldn’t be allowed to kneel, and that nobody would be allowed to play in the XFL if they had a criminal record.
Who is playing in the new XFL?
The league held its draft in October and stocked its pool with former college stars and players who were once in the NFL. The first player signed was quarterback Landry Jones, formerly of the Steelers, Jaguars, and Raiders.
In many ways the talent is not dissimilar from that displayed in the 2001 iteration of the league; however, there are far more known names this time around.
Who should I root for?
The league itself is divided into East and West divisions drawn down geographical lines. A map posted on Reddit identifies the nearest team to each county in the United States, but really we all know you want to root for the ST. LOUIS BATTLEHAWKS, because BATTLEHAWKS.
What are the big differences between the XFL and NFL?
There are a few key rule changes the XFL is implementing to differentiate itself from the NFL.
Kickoffs have a whole subset of rules, including rewarding a receiving team for taking the ball in the end zone and downing it. This is considered a “major touchback,” and gives the ball to the receiving team at the 35-yard line.
The entire PAT system is being overhauled too, allowing teams to get a one, two or three point conversion depending on what yard line the team wants to attempt from.
The rules also allows for double forward passes, assuming the ball doesn’t pass the line of scrimmage on the first pass.
Perhaps most groundbreaking is the announcement the XFL will have a woman on each officiating crew in the league. A step forward the NFL has not come close to matching.
What games are being played Week 1?
All times ET
Saturday, Feb. 8
- Seattle Dragons vs. DC Defenders — 2 p.m. (ABC)
- Los Angeles Wildcats vs. Houston Roughnecks — 5 p.m. (Fox)
Sunday, Feb. 9
- Tampa Bay Vipers vs. New York Guardians — 2 p.m. (Fox)
- ST. LOUIS BATTLEHAWKS vs. Dallas Renegades — 5 p.m. (ESPN)