We are going to stay a one-team town when it comes to ignoring spring football.
The first two versions of the XFL had a New York/New Jersey presence. The third itineration will not.
The new league — owned by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his business partners, not disgraced WWE head Vince McMahon — revealed its host cities and venues Sunday. It plans to resume play in February 2023.
The eight cities: Arlington, Houston, Las Vegas, Orlando, San Antonio, Seattle, St. Louis and Washington. Only Seattle will be playing in an NFL stadium as of now; Las Vegas does not yet have a venue.
Las Vegas, Orlando and San Antonio are new cities from the 2020 version of the league. They replace Los Angeles, Tampa and New York/New Jersey. And those markets were struggling even before the pandemic wiped out what appeared to be a successful first season for XFL 2.0.
The eight XFL cities also avoid overlap with the eight USFL cities — albeit in name only at the moment — with one exception. Both leagues currently have a team in Houston. But the XFL one has actually committed to playing in Houston; who knows if the USFL ever intends for the Gamblers to actually play there. And the same goes for your North Division champion New Jersey Generals.
Even if the USFL expands to two host cities in 2023, it’s hard to imagine it would choose a cold-weather location. And it’s not like there has been any outreach here on the Generals’ behalf. FOX may have the money and ratings success to keep the league going, but the team cities and names continue to look like nothing more than a clever marketing ploy. We remain skeptical the USFL will ever move beyond centrally-located hubs. And if it does, who’s to say the Generals would even make the cut?
No one wants to go freeze their butt off at MetLife Stadium (or at Red Bull Arena or Rutgers or Montclair State) to watch bad football in the winter. We get enough of that from mid-September to mid-January. If the USFL does decide to go to home cities, there is Jacksonville Bulls, Memphis Showboats and Oakland Invaders gear to be sold as well.
We remain convinced the XFL will defeat the USFL long-term. Being in the actual cities makes the league feel more legitimate. The Rock’s involvement makes it sexier. The league has made early efforts to be more attractive to players (and their agents). And its television deal with ESPN will prove more potent than FOX in the long run. As long as the business fundamentals are sound, the XFL has a chance.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]