The XFL, a winter and spring professional football league launched by WWE CEO Vince McMahon, will play its first games this weekend, starting Saturday at 2 p.m. ET when the DC Defenders host the Seattle Dragons at Audi Field.
This is McMahon’s second attempt to fill a perceived football void in the months following the Super Bowl. Back in 2001, he started another league — also called the XFL — along with NBC, in an attempt to blend football with elements of his wrestling empire, believing the NFL had become too dull. Poor attendance and television ratings forced the league to shut down after one season.
McMahon announced he was resurrecting the XFL in 2018, promising that his new league would focus more on football while shortening game times to under three hours. League executives, including Commissioner Oliver Luck (father of former Colts quarterback Andrew), altered several traditional NFL rules in the hope the XFL will do better than previous winter and spring leagues, including the original XFL, the United Football League and last year’s Alliance of American Football.
Here’s a rundown of what the new league will look like.
Q: How many teams are in the XFL?
A: The league will have eight teams in 2020, divided into two geographical divisions. Washington, New York, Tampa Bay and St. Louis are in the East division, while Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston are in the West.
Teams and home fields:
- Dallas Renegades (Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas)
- D.C. Defenders (Audi Field in Washington)
- Houston Roughnecks (TDECU Stadium)
- Los Angeles Wildcats (Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.)
- New York Guardians (MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey)
- St. Louis BattleHawks (The Dome at America’s Center)
- Seattle Dragons (CenturyLink Field)
- Tampa Bay Vipers (Raymond James Stadium)
Q: How many games will XFL teams play?
A: Teams will play a 10-game schedule with five home games and five on the road. There is no bye week. The top two teams in each division will face each other in a one-game division championship on the weekend of April 18 and 19 with the league championship game on April 26.
Q: What does XFL stand for?
A: Believe it or not, the “X” doesn’t stand for anything. Back when the original XFL was founded, organizers wanted to name their league the “eXtreme Football League,” but since a league of a similar name already existed, they said the “X” was supposed to stand for anything but the NFL, which they considered to be stuffy and boring.
Q: How is the XFL different from the NFL?
A: The XFL is marketing itself as a much faster version of the NFL with a stated intention to play games in under three hours. To do that, it has changed several NFL rules and added a continuous clock that won’t stop for incomplete passes or plays that go out of bounds except inside the final two minutes of each half. Among the more extreme rule changes:
- No extra points after touchdowns: Instead, teams can go for one, two or three points by running one play from either the 2-, 5- or 10-yard line.
- Multiple forward passes: Any number of forward passes can be thrown on each play as long as those throws are behind the line of scrimmage.
- Overtime soccer penalty-kick style shootout: If the game ends in a tie, both teams will get five discrete plays from the 5-yard line and will get one point for every time they score, with the defending team getting a point for each turnover. The team with the most points at the end of the shootout wins.
- No replay challenges: Instead, an on-site official can ask for a replay that will take no more than 30 seconds to complete.
- A shorter play clock: There will be just 25 seconds between plays instead of the NFL’s 40.
- Encouraging kickoff and punt returns: Tweaks in the rules will push returners to not make fair catches or let kickoffs roll into the end zone by limiting the rush of players downfield on punts and kicks and bringing punts that roll out of bounds inside the 20 out to the 35.
- One-foot-inbounds catches: Players only have to have some part of their body inbounds while controlling a thrown ball for the catch to be considered good.
Q: How much do XFL players get paid?
A: Most players will earn about $55,000 for the season with the highest maximum salary being $257,000.
Q: How can I watch the XFL?
A: Games will be broadcast each Saturday and Sunday from Feb. 8 through April 12 on ABC, ESPN, Fox, FS1 and FS2. Two Thursday prime-time games in April will be carried on Fox. Playoff games will be on Fox and ESPN, with ESPN carrying the championship game.
Q: Who are some notable players in the XFL?
A: Most of the league’s players are recent college players as opposed to older former NFL players looking for one last chance. But there are a few names fans will recognize, including former Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson, who plays for the Los Angeles Wildcats.
There are other recognizable names. Former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones will play for the D.C. Defenders. Landry Jones, the onetime Oklahoma star quarterback, plays for the Dallas Renegades. Kony Ealy, who had three sacks and an interception in Super Bowl 50 for the Carolina Panthers, will play for Houston along with former Auburn and Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Sammie Coates.
Q: Are there any famous coaches in the XFL?
A: Yes, there are several, including former Redskins head coach Jim Zorn, who now coaches the Seattle Dragons. Onetime Chargers coach Kevin Gilbride coaches the New York Guardians, ex-Falcons coach June Jones is the Houston Roughnecks’ coach and former Bears coach Marc Trestman now coaches the Tampa Bay Vipers.
The Dallas team is coached by former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.