With over two months left before the start of the NFL regular season, fans in the midst of a summer sports slump are counting down the days until that first kickoff. But as Fourth of July weekend approaches, the USFL Championship offers football fans a perfect solution to the offseason blues.
The conclusion to the new minor league's first season will take place on Sunday as the Birmingham Stallions and Philadelphia Stars compete for the inaugural championship. (The USFL operates under the same trademark as the league that operated in the 1980s but is considered a separate and new attempt at launching it.)
The championship trophy was unveiled before the start of the season.
How to watch
The USFL Championship will begin at 7:30 on Sunday, July 3 and will air on FOX and FOX4K. Watch with fuboTV.
What to know
Who is playing?
The Birmingham Stallions and Philadelphia Stars will face off for the second time this season in the championship game. They met once before in Week 5 of the regular season, when the Stallions won 30-17.
Birmingham was the home of the spring league for all of the 2022 season, meaning the last time these two teams met, the Stallions essentially had a home field advantage (as they must have for the entirety of eight-week run). The playoffs and championship game, however, are played in Canton, Ohio, at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
Are the rules different?
The rules in the USFL diverge from those of the NFL fans are used to. They are designed to enhance the offensive side of the game and give teams more opportunities to score or make big plays. Here is a rundown of the most important changes to be aware of.
After a touchdown is scored, a team can choose to go for a 3-point conversion (in addition to the standard extra point or 2-point) by crossing the end zone from the 10-yard line.
Overtime is also different, with each team being allowed three plays from the opposing team's two-yard line. Each time a team scores it is two points.
Offenses are allowed two forward passes when behind the line of scrimmage. There are also changes to the type of onside kicks allowed.
What are the storylines for each team?
Sunday's game is expected to be close. Both teams are fairly equal in terms of talent, although Philadelphia has been playing with its backup quarterback for the last two months after starter Bryan Scott was ruled out indefinitely because of a knee injury. Backup QB Case Cookus has thrown 12 touchdowns for the team so far (and six interceptions).
The two teams also each have momentum coming into Sunday's matchup. Philadelphia upset the New Jersey Generals (who had not lost since the first week of the regular season) in the semifinals with a late 87-yard punt return from Maurice Alexander to punch its ticket to the title game, while Birmingham beat the New Orleans Breakers to end its four-game losing streak coming into the playoffs.
No matter the outcome, Sunday's game is sure to be a fun taste of the football that many fans are waiting for this fall.