UFL: The Rules Of Football Are Changing

On March 30, 2024, the United Football League will open its inaugural season with an exciting matchup between two former championship teams, the Birmingham Stallions and the Arlington Renegades. The UFL is changing the look of professional football by providing a legitimate off-season alternative to the NFL and fans might just be surprised by the difference.

UFL-The Rules Of The Game Are Changing

New League, New Look

In their quest to establish themselves as the dominant spring football league, the UFL will introduce several rule changes designed to speed up the game’s pace and provide a thrilling overtime in the event of a tie.

Designed to distinguish UFL football from its previous incarnations, the league’s rule book builds on the USFL and XFL foundation and combines elements of both NFL and college football rules. Whereas USFL rules tended to follow the traditional NFL format, the XFL embraced a unique game-altering style. But, by blending these rules, UFL management sets the tone and tempo of the game and demonstrates a singular vision that promotes player safety and creates a more satisfying fan experience.  

UFL viewers will notice a different look right from the initial kickoff when the ball is placed on the 20-yard line. Unlike the XFL kickoff return, where only the kicker and designated return man are in motion, once the ball is in play, the entire field can participate. The receiving team takes over at the 30-yard line if the kick goes out of bounds. The kicking team can only recover the ball if it’s untouched by the receiving team within 20 yards from the spot of the kick. Touchbacks for both punts and kickoffs will spot the ball at the 25-yard line.  

Although the XFL approach was designed with player safety in mind and to minimize high-speed hits, it also resulted in a vast majority of the kickoffs returned. When that became the norm, kickoff returns weren’t as exciting. Instead, the UFL is adopting the traditional NFL rule that results in less than one-third of kickoffs being returned. This leads to a far more satisfying outcome and UFL fans can experience the exhilarating thrill of seeing a player evade the opposing team to reach the endzone. 

Extra Point Scoring Rules 

Although Brandon Aubrey‘s outstanding kicking record with the USFL Birmingham Stallions brought him to the attention of the Dallas Cowboys last year, the UFL has opted to go in a different direction this season. Hoping to increase the intensity and competitiveness of the game, the UFL is eliminating the point after touchdown kick. Instead, teams will have an opportunity to score only with a run or pass attempt. Points will be awarded based on an incentivized point scale that rewards a more aggressive playing style dependent on where the ball is placed.

Adopting an XFL rule, UFL teams can elect to place the ball on the two-yard line for one point, or the five-yard line for two points. Or, if they choose to go for it on the 10-yard line and succeed, they will be awarded three points.    

Onside Kick Alternative

As regulation time ticks down, instead of being forced to go with the rarely successful onside kick after a scoring play, teams will be given the option of retaining possession with a fourth down play. The team will need to successfully convert on fourth and twelve from the 28-yard line, which could decide the outcome of a close game.     

Overtime Rules

Another significant rule difference is how overtime will be handled. If the regulation game ends in a tie, instead of a 10-minute overtime as the rules dictate in the NFL, the UFL will utilize an alternating format where each team will have a best-of-three opportunity to score from their opponent’s five-yard line. In addition to eliminating the controversial coin toss to begin overtime, field goals will not be allowed, and play will continue until there is a winner. 

How These Rules Could Be Adopted By the NFL

The UFL is a proving ground to showcase the talents of younger players and coaching personnel who aspire to join the NFL. It could also have the potential to change NFL games. If these rules add to the fan experience by creating a more exciting game, then these changes could be adopted by the NFL. But a larger picture is in play. Assuming the UFL builds a strong fan base and establishes itself as a successful stand-alone league, it might just be the answer for the countless football fans who feel the NFL season is far too short and offer another sport to embrace in the offseason. 

Main Image: Kevin Whitlock / Massillon Independent / USA TODAY NETWORK

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