It’s time for the Spring Soccer League … and it’s gone

Spring professional soccer.

An idea that was once very promising.

Now, no matter how many of these leagues come out, it’s unlikely that you’ll open up a small niche in the American sports scene.

Give up, USFL.

Same as above for you, XFL.

This is no longer in the 1980s.

Resurrected US Football League — Borrowing the nicknames of Monica and the team from a league that went out of business 36 years ago — last month, all regular season matches began in Birmingham, Alabama.

The USFL, the sequel, follows a familiar formula in recent spring football: lots of unknown players, sloppy play, and games played in front of almost empty seats.

Sadly, this watered-down version of the USFL only rekindles memories of the last emerging league of major American sports that actually had a chance to make it (at least we’re old enough to remember). for).

The original USFL, played for three seasons from 1983, was a very sensible concept, but was revoked by the arrogance of future owners such as President Donald Trump. NFL.

The league may remain today if it sticks to the plans planned by New Orleans businessman David Dixon, who believed there was a professional football market in the spring and early summer.

His vision has led to a promising setup with many NFL caliber players.

“I think the four teams in our group were able to compete at the NFL level,” recalls Tom Banks, a longtime NFL center who played the first two seasons at the former Birmingham Stallion. Of a good coach. “

Dixon envisioned a league with teams from major US markets, played in NFL caliber stadiums, and was backed by national television contracts, but with a salary cap-style mechanism to keep costs down.

Stallion was a team that gathered a roster including Banks and was heavily obsessed with its philosophy, including Joe Cribs, quarterback Cliff Stout, and receiver Jim Smith.

The USFL wasn’t intended to challenge the NFL directly like its predecessors, such as the American Football League (which was forced to merge with the NFL) and the World Football League (which failed miserably).

But that could work — especially given the state of American sports when the USFL debuted:

—The NFL is very popular, but it hasn’t been as huge all year round as it is today.

— Major League Baseball has not yet expanded to Phoenix, Denver and Tampa Bay. All of these landed the team on the original USFL.

—Michael Jordan’s NBA debut is still a year away, with nearly half of the league’s 23 teams failing even an average of 10,000 fans in the 1982-83 match.

—NHL operates primarily in the region, basically unknown outside the northeast and midwest, and had no major television contracts.

— The North American Soccer League took the last step and collapsed in 1984. Major League Soccer did not appear until 1996.

In that setting, there was room for another football league.

not anymore.

Spring football is unlikely to succeed in the NBA and NHL playoffs, the beginning of the baseball season, the NCAA tournament of college basketball, and the time frame dominated by the NFL, which never actually enters the offseason.

Next year, we will introduce Major League Soccer, which will grow to 29 teams, and it is becoming more popular in the English Premier League and the European Champions League in the United States.

If the USFL was sticking to Dixon’s plans, it could continue to this day and hinder the growth of basketball, hockey and football.

Instead, the league expanded too rapidly, accepting suspicious owners, and basically closing the fate with the unlucky plan of Trump and others moving in the fall to compete directly with the NFL.

It led to an antitrust lawsuit won by the USFL in 1986, but to say the least it was an empty victory. The jury incurred $ 1 in damages, which automatically tripled to $ 3 under federal law.

The USFL has quietly closed down. Apparently, it didn’t even monetize the checks that the NFL faithfully sent to cover the decision.

Since then, none of the myriad efforts to start the Spring Football League have been as bold as the original USFL.

The American football World League lasted only two seasons with the US team. The original XFL was folded a year later. T He is an American football alliance It went out of business in just eight weeks. The XFL renewal Shorted by COVID-19 pandemic.

You now have this new version of the USFL. Third attempt at the XFL Probably at the tap in 2023 (we aren’t holding our breath for that).

Fox-owned USFL keeps costs down by playing in a single city. However, it has created an embarrassing spectacle of games that do not include hometown stallion, which is mainly played in front of family and friends.

“We need to attract more people to the game,” Banks said. “It seems depressing to those who are trying to play. You supply the energy of the crowd.”

Like all other spring leagues since the original USFL, there’s no pretense about landing big-time players. These are pure and simple leftovers.

“They really don’t emphasize the players,” Banks said. “I don’t know much about these people individually, and I’m still following the game pretty well.”

Fox, NBC, and their associated networks were pushed up by top announcers trying to thwart four games over the weekend and convince us that this is really a worthwhile pursuit. However, the evaluation for the first three weeks was generally terrible.

Thanks to the court’s decision to terminate the original USFL, it will be known forever as the “$ 3 League”.

The new USFL isn’t worth much.


Paul Newberry is the Associated Press National Sports Columnist. Write to him at pnewberry (at) or


Other AP Sports: https: // and and Other Associated Press NFL: and https://apnews. com / Hub / Pro-32 and