UFL 2024: What to know about rebranded spring football league

The Rock hoping for success in XFL/USFL merger (1:43)

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson joins "First Take" to discuss the merger between the XFL and USFL. (1:43)

The spring/alternative football industry is running out of original acronyms.

American football fans have seen the rise (and fall) of three different versions of the XFL. There have been two USFLs, two UFLs and one AAF. The surviving pieces merged this winter and, after scanning the historical landscape, resurrected "United Football League" as the name of the new venture.

The third UFL, this time owned equally by Fox Sports and the former investors of XFL 3.0, opens training camp Saturday in Arlington, Texas. Its eight teams will play a 10-week season with no bye weeks that kicks off March 30, and the league boasts a combination of advantages -- strong financial backing, multiple national broadcast partners and a blend of previous templates -- that its predecessors did not.

"The right thing for spring football," said UFL CEO/president Russ Brandon, "is to have one focused league. And I think we all are very confident that this league will be here well beyond our years."

Brandon, a longtime NFL executive with the Buffalo Bills, joined the XFL for its 2023 season and will run the UFL's day-to-day operations. Former USFL front office chief Daryl Johnston is the executive vice president of football operations, and the eight coaches are an equal blend from the USFL's and XFL's 2023 seasons.

"We're going to be a much, much more talented league with a lot more depth at the critical positions," Johnston said. "I think our staffs are going to be stronger. You're taking eight teams [in the USFL] and eight teams [in the XFL] and combining into eight. You're pulling the best of the players and the best of the coaches into the UFL family."

Here's what you need to know about the UFL at the start of training camp:

How will UFL training camp work?

All eight teams will report to the league's headquarters in Arlington and practice at surrounding facilities. Teams will be allowed a 75-man roster. Once the regular season begins, rosters will shrink to 50 players per team.

Those Arlington-based facilities will continue to serve as practice sites during the regular season. Teams will travel to their home markets for games only, like the XFL did in 2023.

What are those teams (and markets)?

The league is made up of four former XFL teams and four from the USFL. The one overlapping market was Houston, where the UFL decided to rebrand USFL's Houston franchise with the XFL Houston team's name.

Here are the teams, their home stadiums and their head coaches:

USFL conference

Birmingham Stallions (Protective Stadium, Skip Holtz)
Houston Roughnecks (Rice Stadium, Curtis Johnson)
Memphis Showboats (Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, John DeFilippo)
Michigan Panthers (Ford Field, Mike Nolan)

XFL conference

Arlington Renegades (Choctaw Stadium, Bob Stoops)
D.C. Defenders (Audi Field, Reggie Barlow)
San Antonio Brahmas (The Alamodome, Wade Phillips)
St. Louis Battlehawks (The Dome at America's Center, Anthony Becht)

Introducing the new UFL conferences and teams

Danny Garcia and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson announce the UFL's new conferences.

What is the profile of a typical spring football player?

The AAF, XFL and USFL have sent hundreds of players to NFL tryouts, offseason practices, training camp practices and/or regular-season rosters. Some of them were still in the league during the 2023 season, including Los Angeles Chargers tight end Donald Parham Jr., Atlanta Falcons quarterback Logan Woodside and Dallas Cowboys returner KaVontae Turpin.

But Johnston said he has been surprised at how many spring football players in the AAF, XFL and USFL don't necessarily have an NFL opportunity in sight.

"I've expected the majority of our players [in past seasons] would be like, 'I've got to get my chance to get back up there to the NFL,'" he said. "But you start to find that there are a lot of guys who are at peace that their NFL window has closed, but they love the camaraderie of the locker room. They love the day-to-day grind.

"... That's been the really inspiring thing to me, is there is a number of guys in our league who just love the game and want to keep playing it as long as they can."

Who are some of the players in the UFL?

There are a handful of players on UFL training camp rosters with NFL name recognition, including former New York Giants running back Wayne Gallman, who is allocated to St. Louis. The UFL also dipped into the social media world to sign YouTube star Donald De La Haye, also known as "Deestroying," who was a placekicker at UCF. He is assigned to San Antonio.

But there will be a good deal of personnel turnover over the next few weeks, and generally speaking, leagues are viewed through the lens of their quarterback talent. To that end, the UFL has pursued a mix of spring league veterans and former NFL backups. The list includes AJ McCarron (St. Louis), Matt Corral (Birmingham), Danny Etling (Michigan), Case Cookus (Memphis) and Tom Flacco (San Antonio), brother of longtime NFL quarterback Joe Flacco. The quarterbacks in last season's XFL championship game, Luis Perez (Arlington) and Jordan Ta'amu (D.C.), will also return.

Some spring leagues have paid quarterbacks above-scale salaries to attract bigger names, but as of last month, Johnston said the UFL had opted against that approach.

UFL players receive $5,500 per game week in accordance with their partnership with the United Football Players Association, a union the UFL has recognized and negotiated with.

"Our quarterbacks are paid the same as everybody else," Johnston said. "The approach is to be fiscally responsible there. We've gotten some pushback from some of them, which is understandable, because they can say everybody knows how valuable this position is and how it should command a higher salary.

"We're a start-up league trying to get our feet underneath us to be successful here and for a number of years moving forward. There's a good argument for both sides. How do we manage this situation in a way that is positive and good for both sides of the equation? ... It's hard to thread that needle."

Who controls the finances?

Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks represents the interests of 50% of the UFL board, while the other half is comprised of members of the XFL 3.0's ownership group: Gerry Cardinale of RedBird Capital Partners, Dany Garcia and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Fox Sports and Disney/ESPN are both broadcast partners. All 43 UFL games will be televised on ABC, Fox, ESPN, FS1 or ESPN2 and streamed on either ESPN+ or the Fox Sports app.

The season will start March 30, with four teams (two from each conference) advancing to the playoffs, which start on June 9. The UFL championship game will take place June 16 in a city to be announced later.

The opening-week schedule (all times Eastern):

Saturday, March 30

Birmingham Stallions at Arlington Renegades (1 p.m., Fox)
St. Louis Battlehawks at Michigan Panthers (4:30 p.m., Fox)

Sunday, March 31

D.C. Defenders at San Antonio Brahmas (noon, ESPN)
Memphis Showboats at Houston Roughnecks (3 p.m., ESPN)