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The XFL is relaunching. Here's what we know so far and how it will be different

Dwanye "The Rock" Johnson speaks to those participating in the XFL Showcase at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday.
XFL
Dwanye "The Rock" Johnson speaks to those participating in the XFL Showcase at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday.

The XFL is a little more than six months away from the start of its season, and as the league attempts its third try, it's expanding to three new cities and making Arlington, Texas, its headquarters for the 2023 season.

Las Vegas, San Antonio and Orlando, Fla., are all new teams to the league this year. Houston, Seattle, St. Louis, Washington, and Arlington all had teams during the first reboot of the league in 2020.

The locations of the teams and which of the previously announced coaches would be tied to each of them were announced on Sunday by the league's owners, actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, his longtime business partner Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital Partners.

"What brings a league to life is the passion of the fandom behind it," Garcia said in a statement. "In each of these cities we will co-create with our fans and build these teams from the ground up so that they represent the unique fabric of our communities."

Johnson said he was "proud" to announce the location of the headquarters on Monday.

"This football-rich community is the perfect place for us to instill the XFL culture & DNA into our players," Johnson said on Twitter. "Now the fun part - we go to work."

As the league continues to prepare for its scheduled kickoff on Feb. 18, 2023, here's a look back at the history of the league and what might be different this time around.

When did the XFL start?

The XFL got its start in 2001 as a partnership between Vince McMahon, then the chairman and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, and Dick Ebersol, who was the chairman of NBC Sports. A lot of things led to the downfall of the league that year, but maybe most notably, the football was just not really worth watching.

The league had notable differences from the NFL. Rules changes led to a more violent and unsafe game. The focus on the sex appeal of cheerleaders was brought to the forefront of the teams. Players were encouraged to put their nicknames on jerseys.

McMahon brought his signature flair and helped sell the league, but players and coaches had les than two months to prepare and practice, and all of the fanfare appeared overhyped when teams actually took the field.

Though there was high interest at the beginning of the season, it didn't last, and when the season ended that April it marked the end of the league — or so it had seemed at the time.

The 2020 reboot of the XFL made it through half the season before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the games to a halt.
Richard Rodriguez / Getty Images
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Getty Images
The 2020 reboot of the XFL made it through half the season before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the games to a halt.

The league got a reboot in 2020 — and then the pandemic hit

Nearly two decades later, McMahon announced the league's return — slated for 2020. The approach appeared to have evolved, with many of the WWE tactics were left behind. Instead, this new iteration of the XFL focused more on the game and player safety, with rule changes that were meant to lessen the chance of injury.

"The game has really been elevated, and as a result, the players that are available to us — sort of the 500 best players in the country not under contract to another professional football league — these guys are good," former XFL commissioner Oliver Luck told NPR in 2020. "Now, having said that, we know it's a challenge, and we're going into this eyes wide open. But we think we've got a pretty good shot at establishing a league that people want to watch."

The 10-game season seemed well on its way to becoming the type of league Luck talked about, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Sports leagues stopped their seasons abruptly, and while most came back months later in bubble environments, the XFL was not one of them. The league laid off almost all its employees and promptly filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

"The XFL quickly captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people who love football," the league said in a statement announcing its end. "Unfortunately, as a new enterprise, we were not insulated from the harsh economic impacts and uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 crisis."

Johnson, Garcia and RedBird Capital Partners bought the league for $15 million later that year.

XFL 2023 is on its way but we still don't know all the details

Though the cities and head coaches have been announced for the 2023 season — the coaches are a mix of former NFL and college head coaches and retired NFL stars — the team names and mascots have not. Rosters also have not been released, though the league just finished its last prospective player showcase on Sunday in Arlington.

Game dates and times have not been released , but the XFL already is selling ticket deposits starting at $50. And for the fans who plan on watching from home, the league announced a broadcast deal with The Walt Disney Company and ESPN in May. The deal goes through 2027, signaling that this iteration of the XFL iteration is intended to last more than one season.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.