USFL Weekly Update: New League Rules Announced

Weekly USFL Update on the Left and a Referee Tossing a Football on Right

On Monday, training camps opened up for the 2022 USFL season. The beginning of offseason workout programs is not the only big USFL news from this week. Yesterday, the league released its official rules for its premier seasons

As many fans expected, most of the rules will be similar to those of the NFL and NCAA. However, just like with previous iterations of the league, there will be several rules unique to the USFL. According to a league spokesperson, the USFL rules were designed to enhance the fan experience. It will be traditional American football, but with a few unique twists to hopefully improve the game itself.

Whether the USFL rules actually lead to a more exciting football game is yet to be seen. However, the USFL has been an innovator in the past and provided us with many features seen in the NFL today. For instance, the 80s version of the USFL gave us both coaches challenges and instant replay. So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at some of the rules announced for the USFL.

USFL Special Teams Rules

Some of the biggest changes announced in the USFL rulebook involve the special team units. Special teams are often an afterthought for most football fans. However, as the Packers learned earlier this year, they can, for better or worse, change the course of a game.

There have been rumors for years about the NFL making major changes to special teams. In the USFL, we will get to see some of those rumored changes play out.

Kickoffs

As with other leagues, the USFL will have traditional-style kickoffs. However, in the USFL, the ball will be kicked from the 25-yard line. This is 10-yards farther back than in the NFL. Moving the kickoff spot back should allow for more returns and fewer touchbacks. Also, if the ball travels 20 yards, it must be touched by a player on the return team first. In the NFL, a kickoff is a live ball after it travels 10 yards.

Another difference from the NFL is that players can line up more freely. For instance, the NFL restricts players on the kicking team from being more than 1-yard back of the 35-yard line. This prevents the players from getting a running start on the play. However, in the USFL, players can line up as far back as the 1-yard line.

Onside Kicks:

Staying on kickoffs, one of the biggest differences is in the onside kick rules. Teams will have the option to pick one of two choices. First, the kicking team can choose to kick a traditional onside kick. Second, the kicking team can attempt a 4th-and-12 play from its own 33-yard line.

College Football Player Kicking a Field Goal

The NFL tested out a similar rule change at this year’s pro bowl, it did not go well.  However, I think that when used sparingly in an actual season, this could be a great rule change. It puts the ball in the hands of the most important position, rather than the rarely successful onside kick.

Punts:

The biggest difference in punt plays is that the receiving team cannot have gunners line up outside the numbers. As a result, that effectively means that they cannot double team blocks before the punt. This should make it easier for players on the kicking team to get down the field.

USFL Offense and Scoring Rules

Special teams were not the only ones to get exciting changes for the USFL’s return season. The offensive side of the ball also has new and exciting rules. There were also unique rules announced regarding the extra point system.

Two Forward Passes:

One of the unique USFL rules that will surely be making headlines is the addition of two forward passes on the same play. To be legal, both passes must be thrown from behind the line of scrimmage.

Madden fans may recognize this rule change from “The Yard” game mode. In today’s offensive-minded game, this rule change should lead to even more creative play designs.

Offensive Foul Changes:

Another notable difference in the USFL rulebook is that the ball must be past the line of scrimmage for OPI. Offensive Pass Interference (OPI) is not often called, and now cannot be called if the pass is behind the line. The same goes for Ineligible Player Downfield penalties.

Extra Points:

In the NFL and NCAA, teams have two choices after scoring a touchdown: kick the PAT or go for two. The same options will be available in the USFL.

However, teams will also have a third option. The scoring team can opt to go for a three-point conversion from the 10-yard line. That means that team can score up to nine points on a possession.

Clock Stoppages:

A final rule difference that should help offenses is how the clock will operate inside the final two minutes. The USFL will have rules similar to the NCAA in this regard. The clock will stop after a team gets a first down inside the last two minutes of the half.

Closeup of the Hands of a Clock

This should make for more exciting comebacks and could change the outcome of games. As Dallas Cowboys fans found this year, clock mismanagement can cost you in the most important games.

Other USFL Rules Announced

The offensive and special teams are not the only aspects getting a new look. It was announced that the USFL will have a unique replay structure. Also, they are adapting Defensive Pass Interference rules similar to college football. The USFL also announced its overtime rules.

Coaches Are Allowed One Replay Challenge

In the NFL, head coaches get up to two challenges per game. That number will be cut down to one in the USFL. However, the replay reviews should be more consistent. All replays will be handled by the Replay Command at Fox Sports Control Center. The hope is that having one crew making all the decisions will lead to more consistent enforcement of the USFL rules.

Also, the replay crew will have the ability to overturn more calls than the referees in the NFL. Many plays or calls that are considered non-reviewable in the NFL will be able to be corrected in the USFL.

For instance, the replay officials can correct wrongly called personal fouls, such as roughing the passer and facemask penalties. They can also rule on intent in defensive pass interference situations.

Defensive Pass Interference:

Speaking of DPI, the USFL will be adopting rules similar to the NCAA. DPI calls will be spot fouls up to 15-yards. However, if a defensive player intentionally tackles a player pass 15-yards, the penalty can exceed the 15-yard cap. The NFL’s DPI rules are often criticized for being too punitive. This structure should help the USFL avoid that issue.

For instance, if a defender tackles a receiver 30-yards downfield just to prevent him from catching the ball, it is a 30-yard penalty. The intent of the defensive player is reviewable by the officials and replay crew.

Overtime:

Another set of NFL rules that are often discussed is the rules for overtime. It seems as if every year at least one NFL fan base is upset about their team not getting an OT possession. The USFL will look to avoid that issue by having a best-of-three shootout. It will be similar to the OT structure in the NCAA.

NFL Bills and Colts at Line of Scrimmage

Here is how the USFL overtimes will work. Each team will have three possessions from the 2-yard line. The team that scores the most, wins. If the game is still tied after the best-of-three, it will go to sudden death. The two teams will alternate plays from the 2-yard line until one team fails to answer the other’s score.

In Summary

In just over three weeks, the USFL will finally return to action. Training camps are already underway, the rules for the league are in place, and the odds are already making moves in the sportsbooks.

For more USFL news, check back here every Thursday for weekly updates throughout the season.