The USFL has been heating up in the weeks approaching opening kick-off with training camp, player transactions, scrimmages and more. As the teams gear up for the upcoming season, headlines have flurried throughout sports news channels and social media giving both positive and negative press to the newly formed spring league.
The season will kick off on Saturday, April 16 at 7:30 p.m. on NBC and Fox when the Birmingham Stallions face off against the New Jersey Generals. The other six teams will compete on Sunday in a 12 p.m., 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. slot on NBC, USA and FS1, respectively.
Here are four storylines to follow ahead of gameday.
USFL introduces new technology
Over the past week, the USFL has announced a number of new technologies that impact the officiating’s accuracy and improve the football viewing experience. Highlighting the group is a new way of measuring first downs based on a chip inserted in the football. The chip will have a virtual yellow first-down line and would be accurately able to detect if a player gained a first down or not. This technology is reportedly similar to the technology used in professional tennis to determine if a ball is in or out. Some of the most controversial calls on the gridiron are on third or fourth-and-inches plays, so this technology should be able to alleviate the human variable. If this pans out in the USFL, it is also something that could potentially be seen in the NFL at some point.
The USFL is also trying to change the TV experience for fans with a drone camera that will give alternate angles of play and helmet cameras for two players each game, giving a first-person point of view. Finally, to add to the interactivity, 16 players will be mic’d up each game and there will be televised access to locker rooms at halftime.
Player transactions improve teams
Following training camp, teams announced their transactions which included adding, cutting and signing free agents as well as placing players on reserve. The league also uses a waiver system for released players that will go in the inverse order of the standings.
The New Jersey Generals took a hit as their first-round quarterback, Ben Holmes, reportedly has a broken foot and was released due to his return timetable. The Generals then utilized this transaction period to pick up the former Spring League and XFL standout Luis Perez.
The Tampa Bay Bandits also took a hit when wide receiver Eli Rogers, who collected over 800 yards over three seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was placed on the reserve for not reporting.
The Pittsburgh Maulers, Michigan Panthers, Philadelphia Stars and Birmingham Stars all made minimal transactions, while the New Orleans Breaker made an impressive total of eight moves. The Houston Gamblers was the only team completely loyal to its draft class.
A lawsuit from “The Real USFL, LLC”
On February 28, a group representing the original USFL, entitled “The Real USFL, LLC,” filed a complaint against the 2022 USFL for false advertising, false association and trademark infringement. The original USFL claimed to still hold onto the rights of the team names and logos used in the new spring league. They also called the new league a “counterfeit” as they claimed the new USFL marketed itself to seem as if it were related to the previous league.
The new USFL claims that the old USFL’s trademarks had been up for grabs since the league has been out of commission for 37 years. The consequences if the lawsuit falls from the new USFL’s favor could be payments, or even a forced rebranding of every team, which would come with its own financial burden.
At this time, it is unclear which USFL the court will favor, but the case does bring negative press to the start-up league and could potentially expose a blunder that sends the league six feet under. The hearing is scheduled for April 18.
Championship odds for each team released
Ever since the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018, sports betting has been commercially ubiquitous. Last week, Fox Sports, which currently backs the league, released its odds for each team to win the championship. Betting odds, in a way, are Vegas’ power rankings for the league.
The highest odds to win the championship are the Michigan Panthers (+333), which makes sense due to owning the number one overall pick and the most experienced coach, along with talented position players, such as wide receiver Jeff Badet; however, their defense is lacking on paper, which could hurt their chances at the title. Coming in close behind at second are the Tampa Bay Bandits (+425), due to their well-rounded team centered by one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Jordan Ta’amu. Falling to the bottom of the list are the New Orleans Breakers (+700), which could be due to their seemingly weak defense; however, players, such as former NFL wide receiver Taywan Taylor, have the potential to be game-changers. The Stars (+450), Stallions (+550), Generals (+600), Gamblers (+650) and Maulers (+650) fill in the gaps.