Weekly Column: What Impact can the UFL have on the NFL?

In his capacity as a Columnist for California Sports Lawyer®, Founder and Managing Attorney Jeremy Evans has written a column about the future of the United Football League (UFL) and how a partnership with the National Football League (NFL) might be just what the doctor ordered.     

You can read the full column below.


The United Football League (“UFL”) is a combination of the United States Football League (“USFL”) in its second iteration and the XFL, in its third iteration. The UFL is a professional American football minor league that began playing games in March 2024. The UFL is the result of the XFL-USFL merger.

The UFL is a spring football league that includes players that are out of college, international prospects, and former National Football League (“NFL”) players that were released from their respective teams. What impact can the UFL have on the NFL? This is not to say that UFL will compete with the NFL, but in what ways can the UFL support the NFL? Competition is a funny thing that can create a multitude of situations, but no current expert believes the UFL will compete with the NFL.

The NFL does not have an established minor league system like Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, or Major League Soccer. Even Major League Cricket and the National Basketball Association (“NBA”) have established minor leagues, or in the case of the NBA, a developmental league (e.g., G League). Could the UFL serve as the official developmental league for the NFL that could help bring students out of college and into a fully paid system? Could the UFL help with the junior year rules that require college athletes to go through college or reach a certain age before they can declare for the NFL draft?

The UFL has a TV deal with ESPN and Fox. Players are paid, on average, $50,000 per year. There are eight teams in the league. The St. Louis Battlehawks, one of four teams in the eight team league that does not have an NFL equivalent in city where they play (as the Rams left for Los Angeles, again) has been very successful.

The history of the USFL, XFL, and the Alliance of American Football were all very short-lived leagues. All felt pressure to compete with the NFL. All had trouble keeping their doors open for various reasons. All can be summed up to the point that it is hard to compete with an established major sports league without coordination or buyout.

Greek philosopher Aristotle once wrote, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Maybe that principle applies to the UFL. The UFL could serve as the developmental league for the NFL. The UFL could also serve as a testing ground for rule changes. It could also be a training opportunity for new referees. The league could also serve as a place to test new, existing, or former geographical NFL markets like St. Louis, Missouri. The teams could also be moved to new markets that do not currently exist.

The international front for expansion could also follow the same concept. There is less pressure for success as a minor league or team, so new markers and players could be great investments and opportunities for all parties. The NFL clearly has an interest in international growth. The NFL could also benefit from having less reliance on the NCAA and universities for draft prospects. The NFL could also ensure less competition by buying the UFL or partnering with it much like Major League Baseball through professional development contracts with the minor league clubs.

Eventually, the NFL could have a UFL team as the official minor league or developmental team for each of thirty-two NFL franchises. Imagine the value of an NFL franchise with a minor league team attached. With the changes happening in the NCAA with NIL, the transfer portal, and employee status, the system is volatile even if very profitable. The NFL might be wise to diversify their investments with focus on the UFL. The UFL might require the NFL’s partnership.


About Jeremy M. Evans:

Jeremy M. Evans is the Chief Entrepreneur Officer, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clients in contractual, intellectual property, and dealmaking matters. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, California. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com. www.CSLlegal.com.  

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Jeremy M. Evans is the CEO, Founder & Managing Attorney of California Sports Lawyer® representing entertainment, media, and sports clients and is licensed to practice law in California.