The D.C. Defenders, who won the XFL North Division Championship in April, will be among the eight teams in the newly formed UFL in 2024.

The D.C. Defenders, who won the XFL North Division Championship in April, will be among the eight teams in the newly formed UFL in 2024. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Spring football is undergoing yet another transformation.

The XFL and USFL announced Sunday they will merge to form the United Football League.

The eight-team UFL will include five teams from the XFL: the D.C. Defenders (who will play home games at Audi Field), Arlington (Tex.) Renegades (Choctaw Stadium), Houston Roughnecks (home venue to be determined), San Antonio Brahmas (Alamodome) and the St. Louis Battlehawks (The Dome at America’s Center). Three teams will come from the USFL: the Birmingham (Ala.) Stallions (Protective Stadium), Memphis Showboats (Liberty Stadium) and Michigan Panthers (Ford Field), a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed.

This means the Orlando Guardians, Seattle Sea Dragons and Vegas Vipers of the XFL and the Houston Gamblers, New Jersey Generals, New Orleans Breakers, Philadelphia Stars and Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL will not be part of the UFL for the 2024 season. There is no official word yet regarding a dispersal draft of players who were under contract with those teams.

The UFL will kick off March 30 with a matchup between the Renegades and Stallions — the defending champions of the now-defunct leagues. The UFL will use the XFL’s hub model, in which all teams practice in Arlington, Texas, and travel to play in their home markets while playing a 10-game schedule with two semifinal playoff games and a neutral-site championship game, the person confirmed.

Russ Brandon, the former XFL president and CEO, will lead the UFL in the same capacity, and Daryl Johnston, the former USFL president of football operations, will lead football operations.

“From day one, our mission has been to expand the game of football and be a league of opportunity, culture and innovation,” XFL co-owner Dwayne Johnson said in a written statement. “As we come together to create the UFL, we can build something powerful, exciting and very cool for football fans — a spring league with lasting impact for all the players with a dream to play pro football and the ‘hardest workers in the room’ mentality to make their dreams come true.”

The XFL launched in 2001 under then-World Wrestling Federation owner Vince McMahon. It folded after one season before McMahon revived the league for the 2020 season. The league lasted just five games until March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced the league to cease operations. McMahon sold the league that August to Johnson, Dany Garcia - Johnson’s business partner and ex-wife — and investment firm RedBird Capital Partners for $15 million.

The first iteration of the USFL (1983-1985) was the first spring football league to be viewed as a legitimate competitor to the NFL, enticing players such as Herschel Walker, Reggie White, Steve Young, Doug Flutie and Jim Kelly to sign with the league out of college. The USFL was re-formed in 2021.

There were also two previous versions of the UFL, one which ran from 1961 through 1964 and a second which operated from 2009 through 2012.

Despite the continuing merry-go-round of spring leagues, current UFL leadership is hopeful this new alliance will push football forward.

“This new venture is possible because of a shared visionary mindset, a profound passion for the game, and firsthand experience living and creating the opportunities that football makes possible,” Garcia wrote in a statement. “As a unified spring league, we are able to deepen our commitment to unlocking and surpassing the dreams of our players, coaches, staff and fans.”

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