Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson gives a speech ahead of the XFL kickoff game on Feb. 18, 2023. Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Just one week after talks were first reported by Axios, the XFL and USFL have announced their intent to merge.

The two spring football leagues announced the news in a relatively boilerplate press release, noting that the merger was “subject to customary regulatory approvals.”

“If the transaction is consummated, the new league will establish best-in-class operations based on the most recent seasons of both leagues,” the release reads. “This historic combination will anchor professional spring football with substantial capabilities and resources to ensure future growth and continue to enhance the development of the collective players, coaches, and staff that are coming together.”

The merger of the XFL and USFL comes after efforts from both leagues to establish themselves as America’s preeminent spring football league. The journey began in 2018 when Vince McMahon announced a relaunch of the XFL, which had played its only previous season in 2001, and found moderate success through five weeks in 2020 before being shutdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The XFL was later purchased by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, his business partner Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital Partners, who targeted a 2023 return date. The league, however, was beat to the market in 2022 by Fox Corp.’s revival of the USFL, which previously had a three-year run as an NFL alternative from 1983-1985.

The first season of the new USFL saw seven teams play all of their regular-season games in Birmingham, Alabama, before the league expanded to eight teams and hub cities in 2023. This past year, the USFL’s 2023 season overlapped with the XFL’s return campaign, which featured eight teams playing in their own home markets.

While they have each enjoyed varying degrees of success, it seems clear both leagues would be better served combining their assets as opposed to continuing to battle one another. While there has yet to be a truly sustainable spring football league, there certainly seems to be an appetite for the product that has only been accelerated by the legalization of sports betting, and this could ultimately represent the sport’s best shot at spring success.

As for details of what the new league will look like once the merger’s complete, there aren’t many, although Axios’ original report states that broadcasts would likely be split between Fox and Disney, the latter of which is an XFL partner. Social media sleuths have also uncovered that the USFL has filed for trademarks for the National Spring Football League (NSFL), hinting at a complete rebranding for the new venture.



About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.