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Projecting the XFL relaunch timeline and how it compares to XFL 2.0

When will XFL football return? Mike Ellison breaks down the factors.

When will XFL football return?

When will XFL football return? (Image: LA Wildcats At NY Guardians 29 Feb 2020 – Credit Adam McCullough)

Excitement is swirling about the relaunch of the XFL, now donning the XFL 3.0 nickname. With the new ownership group officially taking the reins of the league August 21, the million-dollar question surrounding the league is, “when will XFL football hit the field again?”

To help better gauge when fans could potentially see live XFL football, let us look at the timeline of the original XFL reboot, or XFL 2.0, and how the XFL 3.0 slots in.

XFL Re-Launch Announcement

XFL 2.0: January 25, 2018
The XFL 2.0 relaunch was announced over two years prior to the first game kicking off. It was even announced before the AFL which opened and closed its doors during the same time period the XFL 2.0 was developing and refining what their league would look like. This development time seemingly paid off big as the XFL put a polished league on display before being shuttered by COVID-19.

XFL 3.0: August 2, 2020
After selling to the new ownership group of Garcia, Johnson, and RedBird Capital no official relaunch schedule has been announced. Due to the significant development XFL 2.0 underwent, XFL 3.0 should greatly benefit from existing league structure and relationships. However, while COVID-19 looms large it will likely impact the speed at which certain aspects of the league can return.

Staffing the League

XFL 2.0: June 2018 – May 2019
Former commissioner Oliver Luck was signed to the league in June of 2018. His football background and experience surely helped turned the league into its short-lived success. President and COO of the XFL, Jeffrey Pollack, joined the league six months after Luck, in January 2019. Pollack is still with the XFL today. Coaching positions were mostly filled in February of 2019.

XFL 3.0: TBD
Pollack is the lone front office member still with the league after managing the bankruptcy proceedings. While there has not yet been an announcement on his future, Dany Garcia indicated the new ownership group is interested in bringing back talented employees who were part of the initial efforts. It remains to be seen to what extent they pursue previous employees, but the more experience they can recapture the easier it will be to move forward quickly.

Player Recruitment & Draft/ Team Structure

XFL 2.0: Tryouts: May 2019 – July 2019; Draft: October 2019
I don’t think I need to elaborate on the importance of this section. The XFL began the public recruitment process in May 2019. I say public because scouting was taking place months prior to the announcement. Tryouts were held in all eight team cities over June and July, where around 800 players would work out for the league and team front offices on a by-invitation basis.

The draft had 975 eligible players in the waiting hoping to join a team. With the limited roster spots, all eight teams + Team 9, less than 500 players made a team.

XFL 3.0: TBD
While we wait for details of XFL future proceedings, this may be one of the most challenging pieces of the puzzle. As a token of good faith to players in the XFL, it would be encouraging to see invitations extended to them to either re-tryout or re-join the league completely. Depending on the timeline this new ownership is looking at could impact what player recruitment and allotment looks like.

Significant variables to re-forming teams could make or break the league. I’m not sure you could excite the Houston Roughneck fan base if players are assigned to their original teams. P.J. Walker has moved on to the NFL and hypothetically let us say Cam Phillips and Nick Holley don’t return, then the team identity to gone and they end up playing offensive catchup. And they have the potential for changes in coaching staff which could throw off team chemistry like we saw play a huge too with the seltzer-famed St. Louis BattleHawks.

COVID-19 is another curveball for bringing players in. NFL teams have demonstrated solid handling of having 100 or so guys in training camp so far. But what do tryouts look like getting 100 guys together on eight separate occasions while players and personnel travel around the country for their shot? While the league could make this happen, if it does it will likely be a slower process with smaller tryouts spread out over a longer time period. Even while ramping up, the XFL won’t have the manpower of the NFL to coordinate and pull events off quickly.

Training Camps & Kickoff

XFL 2.0: Training Camps: January 4 – January 22, 2020; XFL Season Kickoff: February 8, 2020
A hidden gem for the XFL is their original structure for training camp. All eight teams (nine counting Team 9) all reported to Houston for training camp. Spread out across the city, each team had its own facility to train and practice at, along with the benefit of easy scrimmage logistics. Without the intention of it, the XFL had a shell structure of what an XFL bubble could look like.

After about six weeks practicing and training together, teams departed for their week one matchups and the rest is history. Saturday, February 8, 2020, the first XFL kickoff was underway for the Seattle Dragons and DC Defenders.

XFL 3.0: TBD
With the stage already set, a single city training camp would likely stick around for the next XFL season. It has the makings to leverage the bubble concept seen in other sports leagues and would ideally transition from camp to the season all in one place.

Summary

Summarizing the major milestones of XFL 2.0 here’s my estimate when the XFL might be able to return to the field:

Staffing the League

Minimum: 5 weeks
Projected: 10 weeks

Player Recruitment & Draft/ Team Structure

Minimum: 5 weeks
Projected: 8 weeks

Training Camps & Kickoff

Minimum: 8 weeks
Projected: 8 weeks

Minimum lead time required

18 weeks, Kickoff December 26, 2020

Minimum lead-time represents what I estimate to be the absolute quickest the XFL could return and let me be clear, just because it could happen, I do not think it would be able to happen in a way to ensure long term success.

Projected lead time

26 weeks, Kickoff February 20, 2021

Projected lead-time better represents what I would see as a reasonable minimum time needed to relaunch the XFL. While only six weeks longer than the true minimum, I feel enough structure is in place throughout the league to support this. Kicking off in February would hold constant with the 2020 season.

Conclusion

The league has plenty of operational and logistical pieces to figure out before we see live XFL football again. Restarting the league during a pandemic is a significant barrier adding the need for safety protocols. Another factor to watch is how the NCAA and NFL progress.  It remains to be seen if new fans to the league could get on board with supporting a team that might not even play in their home city.

In the end, there is still the possibility the XFL doesn’t return until late 2021 or again until February 2022. Should the quick timeline present too many barriers and unknowns, the XFL might take its time returning. With a big investment, and big names backing it, I don’t foresee a rushed or incomplete product being an acceptable outcome. Time will tell what the new league ownership sees as a reasonable timeline to getting the league rolling again.

Until then, anticipation for XFL football will continue to mount.

Mike has been writing with XFLBoard since the start of the 2020 season. He admires how sports come together in a great community and is excited to be part of it. Join him on Twitter for daily discussions and news as it happens.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Willie Graham

    August 21, 2020 at 7:35 am

    Pray God will let Xfl be able to start in. 2021. Lots of players that’s been on teams are practicing training trying to be safe. Please God Bless the League and control the Covid 19. Congrats to the New Owners.

  2. David Tress

    August 22, 2020 at 8:24 am

    The XFL should complete it’s 2020 season indoors playing in a bubble with the CFL in competition for the Grey Cup with win loss percentage used to determine playoff qualification.

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