The XFL American football league signaled it was back in business on Wednesday, announcing eight charter franchises for its reboot that will kick off in 2020 and a change of direction from its short-lived predecessor that folded 17 years ago.
New York, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Washington, Tampa Bay and Seattle will try to find success where the 2001 XFL failed.
In its first incarnation, the XFL, which was conceived as an outdoor football league that would take place during the NFL off-season, survived just one season, having sought to fuse the sport with the over-the-top theatrics of pro wrestling.
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Vince McMahon, founder and chairman of both XFL ventures, said the new version will focus on football promising fast paced, affordable, family friendly entertainment that will be interactive and as technologically-advanced as possible.
McMahon is once again betting on America’s insatiable appetite for gridiron, playing a 10-game regular season followed by postseason and a championship game during the winter and spring months when the National Football League (NFL) has concluded.
“Combined, these markets comprise nearly a quarter of the nation’s population,” said XFL commissioner and CEO Oliver Luck at a news conference held at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium.
“The quality of football is our number one priority and we are doing everything possible to get that right.
“The XFL is being built for fans and built to last.”
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World Wrestling Entertainment founder and chairman McMahon has come up with a different game plan than the one employed by his first football league that mixed the sport with aspects of his wrestling empire.
McMahon is investing $500 million of his own money into a business model similar to the one used by Major League Soccer when it started, with all the franchises owned and operated by the league.
The XFL is also looking at tweaking some of the NFL rules, with the purpose of taking a more “fan-centric” approach.
“Given the gift of time from Vince, we can conceptualize our new brand of football and actually test it out,” said Luck.
“In fact, at this very moment our football operations team is in Mississippi working with the national junior college athletic association and a couple of their member schools,” he continued, “on our first live research and development session, where we are actually testing out our ideas.
“We are committed to listening to our fans.”
While teams have no staff, coaches, players or even names, Luck noted that as of Wednesday, fans could go online and put deposits down on season tickets.
The XFL may not be going head-to-head with the NFL, but the league has decided it can go into markets and fight for revenue with U.S.’s established football league.
Seven of the eight franchises announced on Wednesday will be located in cities that already have NFL teams, and in some cases will be playing out of the same stadiums.
The only city currently without NFL is St. Louis from where the Rams relocated to Los Angeles in 2015.
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New York will play at MetLife Stadium, already home to the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets, while Tampa Bay will play in Raymond James stadium, the home of the Buccaneers that has hosted four Super Bowls.
St. Louis’s team will play at the Dome at America’s Center, left vacant since the Rams left town, while the Los Angeles entry will play at the StubHub Center, the current venue of the Los Angeles Chargers and MLS Galaxy.
Seattle will play in CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL Seahawks.
It marked the second consecutive day Seattle has been handed a new sport team, following the NHL’s announcement on Tuesday that the city had been awarded the league’s 32nd franchise.