Coincidentally (or not), the USFL has announced plans to squat on 50 more players one day after the XFL announced its broadcasting partnerships for the third iteration of the spring league in 2023.
USFL executive V.P. of football operations Daryl Johnston has announced that game-day rosters will expand from 38 to 40, and that total rosters will expand from 45 to 50.
“Week Five games were the most well-played and most competitive we’ve had all season,” Johnston said in a press release. “Our current 38-man game day rosters have produced outstanding football for our fans. There were more players with draftable grades in the 2022 draft pool than any draft in history, so we think now is the perfect time to expand our team rosters by five additional players while increasing our game day rosters to 40 players. This move will also help set up playoff runs as our eight teams compete for the four postseason spots on June 25.”
There’s another reason for doing this. With the USFL requiring players to sign contracts that give the USFL an option to keep the players in 2023, the USFL will be tying up another 40 total players who otherwise won’t be eligible for the XFL.
Once the rosters move to 50, the USFL will have dibs on 400 total players who contractually won’t be eligible to join the XFL in 2023, if the USFL wants to keep them.
It’s an example of one of the various skirmishes that will play out as the XFL and USFL prepare to engage in full-blown spring football arm wrestling next year. The XFL, which will relaunch the week after the Super Bowl, will find itself unable to get the best players from the USFL.
Then there’s the broadcast-network battle. With Fox and NBC televising the USFL’s games — and with the XFL’s dalliance with Disney obvious for weeks — ESPN has completely ignored the USFL.
That’s obviously a disservice to an audience that is hearing nothing about the USFL in 2022 but will hear plenty about the XFL in 2023. But it’s nothing new for ESPN. Hockey was marginalized until ESPN recovered a piece of the TV rights. So, as we’ll see once again next spring, the tagline The Worldwide Leader in Sports comes with this implicit caveat: The Worldwide Leader in Sports We Televise.