The Arena Football League is making a comeback and is set to hit the field again in 2024. Arena football has been around in a couple of different incarnations since 1987 but hasn’t been active since 2019. For a long time, it was a primary alternative to the NFL in the United States. Now it feels like just another “professional” football league looking to compete in an already oversaturated market.
The USFL, XFL, and now the Arena League. Americans love football, but that doesn’t necessarily translate outside the NFL. Regionally, Division I college football is also huge in certain areas of the country. But do we really need this many pro leagues? Probably not, and the turnout for these games will prove that.
If you watched even one minute of the USFL’s return last year, you saw the stands in these huge stadiums and how empty they were. But let’s give credit where it’s due. FS1 and mainly Colin Cowherd sold the hell out of that league in its return. And apparently, they’re ready to do the same again this spring.
On Saturday, Feb. 18, the XFL makes its long-awaited return to the gridiron. We all love The Rock and anything he’s involved with, but for goodness sake, this isn’t going to work. It didn’t work the first time Vince McMahon tried it over 20 years ago. Obviously, it’s great for all these young football players who don’t make the NFL and want to continue their playing careers. But if it’s not the NFL, the casual fan just doesn’t give a damn.
That’s an issue the AFL will run into, along with fighting the XFL and USFL for popularity. This time, they’ll need to bring something different to the table to stand out from the crowd. During the 90s, when arena football was at its peak, the NFL still revolved around running the ball and playing great defense. The AFL brought that 7-on-7 passing league atmosphere long before the NFL resorted to the same brand of football.
Hopefully, these leagues can find a way to last for a while, but it will be tough. The USFL is already heading into the second year of its comeback tour, but who knows how much longer FOX will pour money into that pit. XFL, AFL, you’re on deck. Please don’t disappoint us.